Over the last decade and a half, the Internet has become less of an online networking system and more of a unique, unrestricted subculture. It includes a vast digital playground of media that is sent, re-sent, and pored over. Everything is immortalized in the Internet’s databases.
It is this feature that causes “cancel culture,” a short-term resolution that occurs when internet users discover someone’s misdeeds. Everyone knows how the story goes. Users find the deed through the transparency of the Internet; users “cancel” the person who did it, sending them to irrelevancy, until, inevitably, the person rebounds back almost unscathed. Really, the greatest paradox of the Internet is its ruthless permanence – and its alarming memory loss.
Already we’ve begun to forget about the Russo-Ukrainian War, which trended from February to late March. People bought blue and yellow pins; people fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars. But as the war still storms furiously on, as more people die, we have begun to move on to the next green thing, slipping into trends as if the last one never happened.
A recent study from Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of American adults concerned about Ukrainian defeat has fallen from 55% to 38%, while roughly a quarter of Americans are not concerned about Russia defeating Ukraine. Most people, fed by the Internet, have other trivial things to worry about; over the last few months, we have obsessed over Will Smith’s slap, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, Don't Worry Darling drama, and the Try Guys scandal. The Internet forgives and forgets, and we are no better than our virtual counterparts. The problem is, our world can’t afford to forgive or forget.
We cannot afford to forgive the war crimes Putin has committed, nor can we afford to forgive the lasting crises in Afghanistan, Sudan, China, Myanmar, and Israel. We cannot afford to forgive the hateful bills and laws that presently pass through state and federal governments, and we absolutely cannot forgive the lack of efficient climate legislation, the mass shootings, the hate attacks. In many places, freedom is crumbling, but we remain locked in petty drama, unable to move past the nature of “forgive and forget.”
Remembering is the first step.
Cathleen Balid is a writer from Queens, New York. Her work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the New York Times, and more, and she is an alum of the online Ellipsis Writing Workshop and the Iowa Young Writers' Workshop. When she is not writing, she loves to journal, scroll through Pinterest, and cuddle with her dog.