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.

Not Everything Needs A Reaction

One of the hardest things to do is bite your tongue when you still have so much to say. My sisters and I shared a room when we were little. My older sister on the top bunk, while my little sister and I shared the bottom bunk. Each night, our mom would turn off the light for us when we were all in bed. We would talk and ask each other questions into the wee hours of the night, but in reality it was probably around 11:45 PM. We would be up talking, laughing, fighting, shit, sometimes even crying – those spelling words always got me fucked up man – for hours on end. It wasn’t uncommon for our mom to yell from the kitchen a couple times as a warning to go to sleep. When it got really bad, she barged into the room and yelled for us to, “Go to sleep, it’s late!” When we really had her fucked up, she would come in, turn on the lights abruptly, and give us that piercing Filipino mom glare – you know the one.

Pretty much every time we ignored her threats. Our dad would always come home around 11:35 PM from work, and that would be the indication that it was really “late.” We would hear the garage door open up and knew we were up way later than we were supposed to be, for me at least, my Ate Michelle has always been a night owl. A lot of the times, Marielle would fall asleep half way through and Mitch and I would continue on. We would share stories of people in our class, our friends, people we liked, giving “what if” scenarios, roasting each other, and talk about what we wanted our future lives to be like.

There were times when my dad had to come in and tell us to go to sleep as well. When we felt really ballsy, my older sister would dare me to go outside and sneak up on my parents in the living room, hiding against the kitchen table to go unseen. I would tip toe bare foot into the dark hallway, sometimes even crawl, trying my best not to creak the floor. The slightest creak would have my heart racing and a huge part of me just wanted to throw in the towel and go back into the room. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it down the hallway before my mom would catch me, ears of an elephant. Now thinking about it, if my kids were pulling that shit I’d high key think my fucking house was haunted. On nights where I was brave and my mom was distracted talking to my dad in the living room, I would succeed. I’d sit against the kitchen wall for a couple minutes before making my way back to the room just to say “I did it.” But there were times where I got caught. “I’m just getting waterrrrrrrr,” I would say quickly to cover my ass. I never turned down a dare that my sisters bet me to do, I guess it’s just second child syndrome.

One night, all 3 of us were awake in the middle of the night talking. We got into a disagreement, I don’t remember if it was friendly or not, but it led to some bickering. We went on back and forth, and then finally it fell silent. I couldn’t resist the urge to say, “I always need to get the last word.” To which my annoying ass sisters tagged teamed saying, “Word!” to literally get the last word. I started to get frustrated and it was a back and forth “word” battle for a while. It went so far as to us trying to whisper “word” really quietly and even waiting 10+ minutes, hoping that one or both sisters would fall asleep so we could really get in the last “word.” Childish because we were literally children, but really shows our determination and pride. Though that’s a funny story and obviously not serious at all, I think of it whenever I feel the need to get the last word in. Tough pill to swallow:

Not everything needs or deserves a reaction.

Now, I’m not trying to sit here and talk as if I have this mastered, because I’m far from it. In fact, I’m amateur as fuck and it’s definitely a learning process. At the very least, I’m aware of the fact that I don’t have to keep explaining or arguing the same argument if it’s going nowhere and turning into a “word” situation. I used to be, and can sometimes still be, the type of person that needs to fight my case until the very end. I will bring up relevant facts and past situations to help back up the fact that I am right. It used to frustrate me to the core when I knew I was right but wasn’t being heard.

I find this the most relevant during fights, because obviously you’re trying to win an argument. I grew up with sisters, so I am no stranger to petty cattiness. I’m well aware that sometimes, the opposing side’s objective isn’t to win, prove their point, or get you to see their side, but sometimes it’s just to get under your skin. I found this to be true in small disagreements and big arguments in past friendships and relationships. Shit, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know this to be true in my current relationship from time to time as well.

My reflex to verbally react is like second nature. I have a comeback for everything. In the heat of the moment, I couldn’t care less about someone’s feelings, and if that energy is brought to me, I will definitely match it. I used to take pride in being the best pound for pound comeback boxer, hitting all the low blows if I found it necessary. For me, everything was free game in an argument. But the feeling after reacting so nastily would always leave the shittiest taste in my mouth. It was nothing to be proud of, even if I was 100% right in whatever the original argument was.

When it turns into button pushing rather than solving the issue, I’ve learned the hard way to just shut it down. But it’s so damn hard to train yourself to get into the habit of learning when to stop talking. It’s literally the complete opposite of what I’m used to doing. But I realized that speaking my “peace” could sometimes do the exact opposite. Depending on what the topic is and who you’re having a conversation with, speaking your peace could easily turn into fighting fire with fire. Suddenly, a small disagreement turns into hurt feelings, things that can’t be unsaid, and regret.

Learning is just that – making the same mistakes over and over again until you make a conscious effort to change that behavior. After a certain amount of time going down the same rabbit hole and coming to the same outcome, you get to a point where you re-evaluate how you’re reacting and what you can do differently. You can’t control how others react, but you can control how you react. You can’t control what someone else says, but you can control what you say or choose not to say. You can’t always control the situation, but you can control when you no longer want to take part in it. Not everything deserves your reaction.

When I feel myself going down that same path where my words become hurtful, I try my best to shut it down. It takes a lot to mentally be aware that you’re about to react in a way that you don’t want to anymore. I discovered that the true power wasn’t in the words and comebacks I was saying, but more so the silence that spoke louder than my words. Sometimes not reacting or saying anything is the reaction that is needed. When you realize that some topics of conversation with certain individuals are just not worth the time and your breath, you’ll start to move differently.

At the end of the day, you can only control how you react to others and other situations. Be weary of those that make conversation to just simply get a rise out of you. You’d be surprised how many patterns and habits become crystal clear in others when you start to acknowledge your own fighting and reacting patterns as well. When you see the “why” behind why people push for their opinion, argument, etc., you’ll start to see that you no longer feel the need to defend your position.

Nobody “makes you” say or do anything. You are in control of your own actions, reactions, and words. Having the last word isn’t where the power is at, it’s remaining genuinely unaffected and unbothered after all that is said and done. Not having other people’s opinions and words shake you up is the real “last word” in an argument. When you’re confident in where you stand, you’ll feel less of a need to prove or explain it.