Xenia Gonikberg is a freshman journalism major.
Cancel culture has gone mainstream. When a person, famous or not, is called out on Twitter or other media platforms for mean or insensitive remarks they have made in the past, they get “canceled.” Often when someone is canceled, they lose opportunities like brand deals and fans. In extreme cases, those people can be shunned across all social media platforms and may even lose their jobs.
YouTubers, celebrities and other people in the spotlight have all been affected by this trend. Yet, cancel culture has stopped short of actually exposing people who need to be held accountable for their actions. Instead, this trend has actually spread false allegations and taken scenarios out of context. Cancel culture picks fights unnecessarily, pits people against each other and can even turn people into pariahs on the internet.
Furthermore, cancel culture has become so normalized on social media that it has done the opposite of what it set out to do: it has desensitized larger issues. In an article by CNN, it mentions how cancel culture is largely black and white with either good guys or bad guys and no in-between. Cancel culture fails to take into account that life is more than just exposing people for their wrongdoings, and a lot of situations don’t have clear cut solutions. It also fails to take into account that even good people can say or do bad things.
Cancel culture originated on Twitter in 2015, when it started out as a hashtag meant to call out people for problematic things like racially insensitive, homophobic or sexist comments and actions. Celebrities like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein are just two of the many celebrities who have been “canceled.”
In the case of Spacey and Weinstein, the #MeToo movement brought to light years of sexual abuse allegations and patterns of misconduct in Hollywood. However, canceling only works in some cases.
Kanye West remains one of the most prominent rappers in Hollywood, despite his tweets calling slavery a choice and supporting Donald Trump’s presidency. Although many left-wing groups were quick to cancel him and criticize him for his remarks, he continues to have a strong fanbase and still makes music.
In other instances, cancel culture has spread false allegations about celebrities based on things taken out of context. YouTuber Shane Dawson has been “canceled” numerous times, and all of the allegations that have been said about him have been completely false. For instance, people were quick to call Dawson a pedophile because of his past videos from years ago that also included racial stereotypes and derogatory remarks. The claims made against him took those videos out of context and were unsubstantiated. Dawson eventually apologized for his past actions, but some people still refused to consider what he was saying.
In the beginning, cancel culture was meant to call out people who were being racist and misogynistic. But nowadays it is mostly used to dig up dirt on successful people and undermine their achievements. Her Campus notes that the social media landscape has drastically changed over time because something deemed offensive now wouldn’t have been seen as offensive years ago. This is due to hate speech becoming more prominent in society. Cancel culture has failed to take into account the changes that have resulted from the growing social media landscape, where it is easy to write something on Twitter in the heat of the moment.
This movement is toxic and problematic. People have no trouble attacking someone for past remarks without taking into context the full circumstances. People also fail to consider that the internet was a different place, even five years ago. A big reason why cancel culture is problematic is that it silences rather than educates. Rather than teaching people about their mistakes it just refuses to acknowledge any explanations or apologies which is extremely unproductive and leaves the problem unresolved. There are people who acknowledge their wrongdoings and want to change, and it is important for others to help them learn from those mistakes instead.
In order for cancel culture to be more effective, people need to get more educated, differentiating between situations that warrant cancellations and situations that don’t. We should move past this idea of canceling people and instead work towards making the internet a more safe and uplifting environment for everyone.