Cut-Off Culture

Is cut-off culture toxic?

I cringed a little just typing that out. This is why: I personally believe that the word “toxic” has lost its meaning in the last couple of years. It’s become an automatic trigger word, and anything or anyone deemed as “toxic” is immediately canceled without question. The word itself doesn’t quite hold the same magnitude and meaning as it once did since it’s being used to describe every scenario – from something or someone actually being toxic to just using the word to describe any minor inconvenience. But, for the sake of simplicity, I beg the question once more… Is cut-off culture toxic?

To answer the question, “Is cut-off culture toxic,” I would say yes and no. There are legit times and situations where cutting someone off is necessary. The act of cutting someone off is not in itself toxic or wrong. Depending on the situation, cutting someone off can be for the better. However, the act of glorifying cutting people off to uphold a certain persona and fa├žade is toxic. The “trending” trait is to put up a front and be proud of being unempathetic, petty, and quick to drop someone if things get hard. Social media plays a big role in that, the idea that the cheese stands alone and doesn’t need anyone’s companionship. Though that is admirable to an extent, it’s also very unrealistic. The act of cutting people off turns problematic when it’s done in such a high volume for minor issues to avoid communicating and confrontation.

There seems to be a division between people’s view on cutting people off. Removing someone from your life in an abrupt and obvious way because of an argument, misunderstanding, or history of manipulation can be very liberating. Overall, the trending advice is in support of cutting people off. But where do you draw the line? When is cutting someone off too excessive and not justifiable? There are those that are proud of their ability to throw out a relationship, whether that be family relationships, romantic relationships, or friendships. Usually when someone says they cut someone off, we tend to congratulate them – assuming that if they’re the one that did the snipping, the other party was automatically in the wrong.

Depending what algorithm you get on your socials, other people’s opinions on cut-off culture can become an echo chamber. Ironically, my Instagram algorithm literally brings up both sides of the coin. I come across posts that praise others for cutting off toxic people that were once in their circle. A lot of these posts are intended to be empowering and motivation to others to “clean up” their social circle of all the untrustworthy, draining, and “toxic” people in their lives. These posts glorify how liberating it is to remove people from your life. Though that may be true, it doesn’t give the full scope of what someone goes through if they do decide to cut someone off. Yes, it can be liberating, but that’s usually later down the road when everything that transpired has been processed. The general message circulating is that cut-off culture is a good thing, it’s what people who want to heal do. Cutting someone off is sold as a way to protect yourself.

The problem with the media’s oversimplified justification and support of cutting someone off, is that viewers start to think that the only way to achieve happiness or find peace is to dispose of a relationship that isn’t perfect. As we all know, no relationship or friendship is perfect. There will always be disagreements, small tiffs, and room for improvements on both sides. Like the old saying goes, there is growth in staying and growth in leaving, you just need to know which one to pick. And with time, the answer may change. The nonchalant support of cutting someone off doesn’t clarify on what grounds you should consider severing ties with someone and when to keep trying. But of course, it is all personal preference.

Like with most things, cutting someone off is not as simple as black and white. It’s not fair to say cutting someone off is 100% right or 100% wrong. There is always a gray area with pros and cons. When you plan to remove someone from your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re just upset with them and plan to give them the cold shoulder for some time. A real cut-off is removing someone completely out of your life. This is usually a permanent action one takes when they feel like they need to protect themselves emotionally, mentally, or physically from another. It may or may not bring closure to both parties, and it is not uncommon for one party to be totally lost and confused as to what happened. Prior to the cut off, an explanation may be made, but it isn’t mandatory. Cutting someone off is like the death of a relationship and ghosting all at the same time.

Sometimes distancing yourself and ending relationships with people that you were once close to is necessary. Cutting someone off is not always a negative thing. In certain scenarios, it is necessary for someone to move on, get closure, or put themselves first. And putting yourself first and being selfish is not always a bad thing. When you put yourself first and start listening to your wants and needs, you will learn more about what you will and will not tolerate. When you find that some people or situations don’t meet that requirement anymore through their actions and words, it is up to you to set that boundary. When someone else can’t respect that boundary, they may feel the need to cut that person off. When it’s not meant to hurt someone and it’s more so coming from a place of self-care and self-respect for yourself, you know that ending ties with someone is for personal growth.

A big part of what makes cutting someone off toxic or not is how it is dealt with after the fact. When it’s dealt with privately and the person doesn’t feel the need to justify their actions to others or on social media, it’s usually a good sign that it was for themselves. Of course, they may talk with their close circle of friends to vent, but there’s no need or want to have to explain themselves on public platforms. This is where the true healing takes place. Healing happens when you don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anybody else, when you’re content with letting people think whatever version they choose to believe.

But even if going separate ways for good is the “right” thing to do, it doesn’t always mean it’s an easy thing to do. I’m sure that plenty can relate to knowing someone or something isn’t right for them, but it pains them to let that relationship go. This is why it’s important to really weigh out your pros and cons to see if cutting someone off is necessary or not, because it’s such a drastic step. Whether it’s a family relationship, romantic relationship, or friendship, we usually think long term and never anticipate that these relationships will fall apart. So when they do, and even more so if it’s your choice to let go of the relationship, it can feel like the death of what once was. They aren’t “gone” permanently like in death, but figuratively, they no longer exist in your world, and that can be a lot to process. And even if you’re the one doing the cutting off, it sucks to admit that it still hurts to some degree to do so, regardless of how “done” or confident you are in wanting to sever ties.

A lot of people think that cut-off culture is problematic because it gives people an easy out to avoid conflict. It’s so much easier to sweep something under the rug and act like nothing happened – or even more extreme – that someone doesn’t exist after a bump in the road. Some claim that cutting people off is an action done by people with poor communication skills. Yet again, I agree an disagree with that explanation. Yes, I do believe that people use cutting others off as a way to avoid the real issues at hand. Sometimes it can be something so minute, but it can lead someone to end a relationship. There are some people that would rather ghost you and act like you never existed than see their part in an argument and admit that they’ve caused some hurt. But on the flipside, if someone feels like they have been taken advantage of to some degree, they may not feel the need to explain why. Or maybe they have tried time and time again to communicate the issue and voice their opinions, but were shut down or ignored. At that point, I wouldn’t feel the need to try to communicate. But how can you tell which scenario it is – plain immature, or someone at their wits end?

For me, one of the biggest red flags is knowing that someone has a history of cutting people off. If someone is known for claiming other people are toxic and boasts about how they cut them off, it almost always has me questioning who was really the problem. When a person uses cutting people off excessively, or as leverage to manipulate others, is when it becomes toxic. This is probably why some think that cut-off culture is toxic, because it’s being used as a tool by people that go back and flip flop on their word. You know, the kind of people that talk all that mad shit when they cut someone off, but you see them with the same individual some time later. This is not to say that you can’t change your mind on wanting someone back in your life. But it all comes down to how it’s done. If you’re always having a dramatic exit with multiple people and publicize it for everyone to see, don’t be surprised when you’re labeled as the person that cried “cut-off.” It’s just a clearer indication that people like that really don’t know what they want and have poor impulse control.

We have created a reality where it’s everyone’s word against everyone else’s. This is a dangerous game because this gives people the power to claim toxicity with any minor inconvenience. Some have fallen into a pattern where any disagreement or differing opinion from their own is considered valid grounds to cut someone off. It becomes toxic when someone is just cutting people off because they don’t want to hear the truth, a different point of view, or don’t like what they’re hearing. Most of the time, the cut off isn’t mutual, and because of this, there will always be 2 different stories, 2 different realities.

I especially find cut-off culture problematic when people feel the need to boast about how they cut someone off on social media. It’s one thing to end a relationship for your own well-being, but to bring it up time and time again in an distasteful manner is something I get second-hand embarrassment from. It’s the bragging for me, when it’s apparent to everyone else that there’s still some hurt behind the gloating. The goal in airing out the tea on social media is to get people to back you up and see your side, and to see the other person to be in the wrong or toxic. Usually when this is done, the goal is to have others cancel them or at the very least, see them in a different light. And then for the biggest cherry on top for the second-hand embarrassment sundae is when these actions are claimed to be being the bigger person, taking the higher road, and choosing not to associate with drama.

There is always a gray area in everything. It’s true that cutting someone off can be valid in some cases, but toxic in other cases. There are scenarios where cutting ties with someone is necessary, and then there are other times when it’s not. Don’t let social media fool you, it’s okay to set boundaries with others and let time tell if the relationship with blossom or end. It’s okay to not jump the gun, don’t make rash decisions because the media is telling you that you should handle a situation this way or that way. Whether some like to believe it or not, we all have toxic traits. No relationship, friendship, or family is perfect. It just depends on who you think is worth the effort and grace.

How Do You Go About Dropping a Friendship?

Recently, I caught up with a dear friend of mine over the phone. They updated me about their life, career choices, dreams, aspirations, the whole run down. I love that feeling of reconnecting, even though we send memes throughout the day everyday. You know, you have those designated people and group chats on Instagram that you send your funny content to, political memes, world events, maybe some gossip here and there, and you are fairly close. You’re technically “connected” everyday, but there’s work, different schedules, and life in general – nobody got time to give constant updates every time. So it felt good to catch up and talk about our lives and dilemmas. We got on the topic of friendships, loyalty, and letting friendships go that are toxic or drama-filled. We are usually on the same page, but we had opposing views on some aspects.

“You should write about this on your blog,” they said as we wrapped up the topic of cutting off friends, “Like, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but friendship edition!”

“Oh my god, yeah, I might just,” I said, even though I had never watched it. But, I got the gist. This is actually a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want anyone to think I was @-ing them. But I mean, if the shoe fits…

Friendship breakups are so under-rated. Sometimes, it’s equivalent to a romantic break up because you can feel betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, and conflicted about things ending. Unlike a romantic breakup though, we don’t really think of the possibility that things can end in a platonic friendship. It can be blindsiding, emotional, and a difficult decision to make. Other times, it’s as clear as day that the friendship needs to end, but just because what needs to be done is clear, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It can be very confusing as well if you’re on the receiving end of the cut off.

This phone call led to this question: How do you go about ending a friendship?

My friend vented about their current situation with a former friend. Long story short, my friend was on the receiving end of being cut off, but for no apparent or obvious reason. I’m very neutral and would tell my friend straight up if they messed up, as they shared all the possibilities of why the friendship could’ve ended. But, I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like it was a 1 way argument, but without the arguing and communication. Only that person knew why they cut off my friend, but never communicated any prior frustration or conflict. Throughout the phone call, my friend kept bringing up how they wished this former friend would just communicate what was bothering them, instead of just ending the friendship with no clear reason.

I agreed that it was weird for their former friend to just stop talking to them and cut them off. Especially since the former friend didn’t communicate anything that would even hint towards frustration or being upset. In fact, the former friend would just gossip to other people, and it got back to my friend, and only then did they find out why they were cut off, but still not having a definite answer coming from the source. It’s like the other person withheld information purposely so my friend could wonder what was going on, and decided to gossip about it and be fake in person. That’s what I thought was weird. It’s one thing to just drop someone without any context. But it’s another thing to drop them, talk shit about them, but still hangout and act like everything is cool in group settings.

“Yeah, that’s some weirdo shit,” I told my friend.

My friend wished they were aware of what they “did wrong,” so they could address it, communicate about it, patch up the friendship, and move on. They believed that it was weird that some people really suck that much at communication and would rather throw away a friendship than openly communicate about what bothered them. We got on the topic of “keeping it real,” with our friends, and went over the different scenarios and instances where we would have to check certain friends in the past. We both agreed that we had no problem checking friends when they’re in the wrong or doing something we don’t agree with. I agreed that in this specific instance, the friendship they lost was probably for the best since it seemed like the other person was pretty fake and liked to play that high school shit. You know, when you find out “your friend” is talking about you behind your back but acting tight to your face – the shit we’re clearly too old for.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some instances, I was that friend – minus the acting cool to your face. In this specific instance – yes, I felt the one who ended the friendship should’ve communicated something to my friend. But I noticed in general, when I’m cutting someone off, I rarely give a reason why too. There has been very few friendships I’ve had that ended badly. But at the same time there are some friendships I’ve had that ended with obvious fights that resulted in the termination of said friendships. But for the most part, I’m the Homer Simpson meme disappearing into the bushes. My only difference from my friend’s former friend is that I don’t play it fake. You’ll know where I stand.

“Really?! That’s sooo weirdddd!” My friend said when I made this revelation.

I explained my reasoning. For me, when there is a clear fall out and fight, obviously I’ll communicate my side, say my peace, and if I can’t patch it up from there with time, then I just cut it off. But as much as possible, I try to avoid bitter endings with former friends. To be honest, there have been very few occasions where I had to tell off a friend right before I snip them. Very rarely will I be so done with someone that we fight about something for a prolonged period of time to the point where I don’t think I can continue with the friendship. If the friendship is worth it, and there is respectful communication, then I don’t cut people off. I don’t think I’ve had too many situations like that where the friendship was so over that I cut them off, deleted them off social media, blocked them, deleted their number, etc. It ain’t that serious.

I’m open with all of my friends and tell them how it is. But when I start to notice patterns in friendships and in their character, I just take a mental note. Especially if that friend did nothing to me personally to make me mad or question the friendship, it wouldn’t seem right to call someone out on their character and decisions when it isn’t directed towards me. If it comes up in conversation or if they ask for my opinion, obviously I’ll say my peace, but when I notice patterns like selfishness, being untrustworthy, and things of that nature, I just observe and remember for future reference. There is power in silence, and power in moving differently towards them when you see them for who they are. But there’s no reason to end on bad terms.

And at that point, there is no point to bring up or confront people when you realize you don’t want to surround yourself with friends that move like them. To me at least, there’s no point to let it be known that, “hey, I see through your actions that you’re actually not someone I want to associate with.” It’s a waste of time especially if that person is living the life that they want to. It just doesn’t make sense to me to call someone out on their character flaws if I already made my decision in letting the friendship gracefully drift. I don’t want any tension, especially if there is no specific fall out that made me want to end the friendship. Nowadays, I noticed that I just distance myself from people I no longer want a friendship with. Not because they did something to me, but because I notice traits and habits that I don’t want in a friend. No bad blood, no hard feelings, no big fight to make the cut off official – just a mutual understanding that the friendship has drifted.

Friendship break ups can definitely hurt. Sometimes there’s obvious reasons why it ended, and sometimes there isn’t. I realize that my explanation for silence and distancing myself can be the same explanation my friend’s former friend had. Sometimes you can talk it out, and sometimes you will be returned with radio silence, so I guess to each their own. For me, I think silence and being cordial is the best way to go about it especially if they did nothing wrong to you personally and you just come to the realization that you just don’t want to fuck with them like that. However, if there is a specific problem or event that led to me feeling some type of way, I’d definitely communicate it to a friend before I start distancing myself.

Because let’s be real, in this cut off culture, anyone and everyone gets triggered and will snip you and broadcast why all over social media. It doesn’t have to be like that. Handling friendship breakups with class is key. But friendship break up’s shouldn’t be the answer to everything. That’s always a red flag to me, when people rotate their friends like the seasons, and have countless fall outs with a lot of former friends. At that point, you really got to sit and look at the bigger picture – who is the common factor. Some friendships can turn toxic real fast, and it’s okay to gracefully leave a friendship.

And just because the friendship is over, doesn’t mean all the great memories are now soured. That is what I took away from that phone call that night. When friendships end, it’s okay to look back and reminisce and be a little sad about the good times. Those memories don’t have to be ruined because the friendship is over. It’s okay to gather your information and realize that you guys don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And it’s okay to let the friendship naturally drift without conflict.

How do you go about dropping a friendship?

Improving Communication

I’ve realized lately that I’ve been more detached and have adopted the “go with the flow” / “I really don’t care” attitude, which is a big improvement since I’m usually an over-thinker that exhausts every scenario and question in my mind. I don’t know if my aloofness is due to pandemic fatigue, getting older, being busy, or just not giving a shit like I used to. What I’m currently working on is realizing that I am not responsible for anyone’s actions and emotions, except my own. Yes, in theory, that seems like a given. But it is something that I’ve struggled more with in the past. I’m learning to set boundaries with people around me, and removing myself from people or situations that don’t make me feel good. Over the past year, this is the area that I have grown and improved in the most. Being aware of how I communicate and how I choose to react has helped me see what I need to improve. It has also helped me see the flaws in others, and not letting their poor communication skills, or how they choose to project their feelings, effect me.

It’s a no brainer that everyone – regardless of who you are- deals with their own inner turmoil and demons. I will be the first to admit that there are still so many aspects of me that need healing, more self-work, and reflection. I know I’m not perfect. Self-work is an emotional journey. It’s a mix of shame, regret, sadness, and hope that there are better days to come. It’s never a straight path journey. It can be a little discouraging when you are doing so well for a period of time, and then something happens where you say something out of anger, or act a certain way that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid. At those times I get frustrated with myself, thinking that my progress that I worked so hard on is suddenly down the drain, and instead of progressing and going forward, I took a couple steps back. I feel emotionally drained knowing that I start back and square one – or at least it feels like it’s back to square one. Being aware of your bad habits and communication style is step one. Trying to unlearn all the bad habits and re-train your brain to react differently is a lifelong journey. I can only control what I choose to do with my life and time. And that also includes how I choose to react, or not react, who I choose to let in my inner circle, and what I will allow and not allow.

2020 was a bit of a shit show. But at the very least, it made me be more aware of how I communicate. When I really put my communication skills under the microscope, I felt ashamed and wanted to take the next steps to be a better communicator. It’s funny because in the professional sense, I am great at communication. I can keep it professional and say what needs to be said without hurting anyone’s feelings. But in my personal life, my communication is not that great. I’m very blunt, and I find it hard to cover up my annoyance, anger, and frustrations – it just results in being snappy and yelling. I’ve always said that I believe I’m a writer because I can’t communicate my emotions verbally without sounding like I’m all over the place. Writing it all out gives me the opportunity to revise my words, being extra careful to get all of my points across, leaving nothing unsaid, but at the same time giving the right tone. Verbally, I’m quick with my words, and I’ve come to realize over the years that my come back game is strong, but it can be very hurtful.

But I also understand that I can only control myself, and not others. Being aware of my own actions and trying to change my ways has forced me to see where others fall short as well. I reflect a lot on who I choose to surround myself with, and how certain relationships – whether that be with friends, acquaintances, family, and other people that I have to deal with day to day – can negatively impact me. Over the years, I have found myself cutting ties, letting friendships naturally drift, and setting boundaries. But it was not always that easy. It has taken years to finally set some boundaries for myself for what I will allow and will not allow into my life.

At this point in my life, I have tried to take more responsibility for how my words and tone can escalate a situation. Sometimes that even results in me staying silent to avoid an even bigger argument. Growing up, verbal fights weren’t over until there was an obvious winner or loser. This usually meant that someone said something so hurtful that the other person was in tears. You “win” the fight, but in the end you’re the loser for stooping so low. So now as an adult, I have to give myself constant reminders that a conversation can be had with disagreements without turning into a fight or argument. I try to apply this when I have a disagreement with my significant other, my sisters, sometimes even my parents. Like the saying goes, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” The importance of communication is undervalued, but I have seen instant improvements when I shift my tone or how I word things.

However, communication is a 2 way street. I can work on myself all I want, but I can’t control how others choose to communicate. How someone treats me is a reflection of themselves, and that is a pill that is hard to swallow. The truth is, not everyone will like you, and not everyone will be in your corner. How people act towards you when you are genuinely trying to better yourself is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I’ve learned to just let it go, cut it off, and remove myself from those type of situations. Everyone has had some relationship, it could be romantic or not, that has been very negative and overbearing. It can be a relationship with your parent, or sibling, or friend, or co-worker, or in-laws, that just drains you. It can be anything from talking behind your back, saying hurtful things on purpose to hurt you, ignoring you on purpose so they make you feel like you owe them something, things that just don’t make you feel good. It may be sad to know that you are not for everyone, but it is also an eye opener to realize that not everyone is for you. You don’t have to have a relationship with people who constantly make you feel bad about yourself.

Everyone is dealing with something, but it comes to a point where it can’t be an excuse for how you treat others. That’s when cutting off, drifting, or setting boundaries comes into play. At this point in my life, I don’t have time to wonder if people are speaking ill of me behind my back, I don’t have time to argue with people who refuse to see my side or even listen, and I definitely don’t have time for people who don’t have the best intentions for me. It’s good to set boundaries with others, but also with yourself. What you will allow, and what you won’t. At the end of the day, you can only control how you communicate with others. And if you don’t like how someone is communicating with you, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to fix something they don’t think is broken. That’s something that they have to want and do for themselves. You can’t force someone to realize that they can be shitty at times. At those instances, it is best to remove yourself from that situation, or break that cycle.

The lesson of communication has taught me that not every person is going to be along for the ride with you forever. There are friendships and people that you just have to leave behind to move forward. It can be pretty sad, but it does bring a lot of peace of mind knowing that you have surrounded and hand picked every person that you chose to be in your life. And dealing with toxic / problem relationships without cutting them off is another story. Sometimes we are put in situations where you can’t really “cut off” the person that is bringing you so much negativity. I have found a middle balance of keeping it professional, but also keeping it moving. My feelings don’t get hurt anymore if someone is being shady because I’ve literally learned to not give a shit. I’ve learned to look past my own hurt and not take it personally. If you’re treating me some type of way, I know that it is something that you are dealing with within yourself. Awkward silence is no longer awkward for me, and letting someone else’s mood affect my mood is only giving them the satisfaction – misery loves company, and I got other shit to deal with.

2020 forced these things to light. “That’s just how I am,” is no longer and excuse or pass. Nobody is perfect, and we are all a work in progress. But, being aware, and attempting to re-learn is what’s important. You can’t control how someone reacts, speaks, or treats you. You can only control how you act, react, speak, and treat others. Understanding this has made it easier for me to weed out who I don’t want in my life. Setting boundaries has made me set a standard for what kind of people and energies I want to be around. I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but being aware and conscious that my communication skills need to be improved. It has brought on a whirlwind of emotions, from shame, anger, embarrassment, and everything in-between. There will be times where the progress feels stagnant, and like you’re fighting an uphill battle. There will be times where you mess up and go back to your old communicating style, but it’s all a part of the lesson. Understanding my emotions, and the root of why I react the way I do, has been a journey on it’s own, “that’s just the way I am,” is something I’ve been trying to take out of my vocabulary.