The internet has been around seemingly forever for our generation. It has been acclaimed for its positives, especially in terms of brokering social justice. Users have taken advantage of the far-reaching powers of social media to initiate calls for change and the sharing of ideas. However, the darker side of social media is just as potent as the light.
“Cancel culture” is a group movement to cease support for an individual, typically a public figure, and involves “calling them out” for their supposed flaws. When one is “cancelled,” other brands or people related to them will most likely be scrutinized as well.
The concept is not altogether alien; Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, and James Charles are all big names in the social media world that found themselves going from being cancelled, un-cancelled, and cancelled again. Chris Brown, Lana del Rey, Doja Cat and even Sebastian Stan are a few more examples.
Cancel culture is prevalent on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, which are more easily accessible to children and other users who are more likely to say something negative. When an individual falls victim to cancel culture, they are exposed to numerous potential outcomes such as death threats, public shaming, or even job loss. All of this promotes an anti-growth mentality where they are unable to reflect back on their mistakes to improve themselves. This furthers a negative mindset that focuses more on the bad than the potential good.
There are others who recognize the potential dangers, but still push for harsh backlash, believing that those who commit a “cancelable” act deserve whatever comes to them. This mentality is largely counterproductive. However, oftentimes instead of educating the individual at fault, the issues at hand stir up resentment. There is no learning experience in cancel culture, and repeated ostracism fuels hatred to those who say it’s a problem.
Because the action of “cancelling” is a bandwagoning trend, cancel culture also generally offers only fleeting movement. As soon as the next problematic figure is found, the group wave quickly abandons the first, leaving the opportunity to rebuild the fan base. This promotes something impermanent, and in the end, unprogressive, as followers eventually rebuild support and the public figure never ends up learning their proper lesson. People who actually deserve to be canceled rarely see lasting effects. Cancel culture is not limited to being toxic, but is effectively useless and even counterproductive, once again creating more bad than good.
It is present in events where Shane Dawson gets repeatedly cancelled, seemingly failing to grow from previous transgressions (Dawson had previously joked about race and other issues in an insensitive manner). Another example is the small rallies against Jeffree Star, yet the accusations against him eventually fizzle out and lead most people to be unaware of his wrongs.
Sometimes, the issue by which people are canceled turns out to be a hoax, being built off of false information. Doja Cat was accused of suspicious activity in racist chat rooms, along with more race sensitive allegations, which came up to be altogether false. Johnny Depp, another renowned celebrity, was cancelled only for his wife to confess to being the one at fault.
Acknowledgement of cancel culture being an issue opens up the conversation about the negative effects of social media and the potential harm that it may bring. Regardless of whether or not an individual finds themselves in the midst of group shaming, it is important to continuously be aware and responsible of anything that goes up on social media in a world where many can simply hide behind a screen.
Graphic: Jiah Lee