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Breaking down cancel culture: the toxic digital trend of the 21st Century
What the hell is cancel culture??
The Collins dictionary defines Cancel Culture as:
‘a social climate in which a person, organization, etc is likely to be ostracized in response to a perceived wrongdoing.’
The notion of cancel culture isn’t a new thing; people have been denounced and called out for their behaviour and words for a long time now. But the rise of social media – Twitter in particular – in the 2010s and in 2020 makes the call-outs much more visible and present in our own digital circles. Viral tweets commenting on the person at hand will spawn hundreds (if not thousands) of replies and RTs, which eventually make their way onto Instagram making the issue impossible to ignore or be unaware of.
But with there being a new scandal every couple of weeks - whether that be unearthing a celeb’s ignorant, ‘non-PC’ Tweets from years ago, to finding out an influencer is associated with Far Right, cancel culture has become an intrinsic and unavoidable part of internet culture that could do with a little re-assessing.
How does cancellation work?
Big newspapers and magazines no longer lead the public conversation or or drive sentiment towards a person or a movement. All it takes is for one tweet to go viral, or for an account with a bit of clout to speak up on an issue or call someone out for a discussion to start and a potential cancelling to ensue.
The person in question will be dragged online, with people giving their hot takes on Twitter/IG or publishing more in depth think pieces on how this person was wrong for doing what they did and how we should no longer support them and their views/behaviour. Depending on who the person is and what their misstep was decides how severe their cancelling is and if they can come back from it.
Who has been cancelled and how does it play out?
Being cancelled isn’t the same for everyone. Some cancellations are years in making, some are swift and sharp, while some don’t really have any effect at all.
The list of cancelled celebrities and influencers is too long to list them all, but here are but a few of recent years:
- Doja Cat: Participating in racist incel chatrooms
- Nella Rose, Maya Jama, Only Bells: Resurfaced colourist Tweets
- Wiley: Anti-Semitic comments on social media
- Katy Hopkins: Racist, Far-Right Hate Speech
- Tory Lanez: Shooting Megan Thee Stallion
- Stefflon Don: Mocking BLM, colourist tweets, 9-5 job shaming
- James Charles: Beauty industry drama (does anyone know what really happened?!)
Is cancel culture toxic?
While people should be held accountable for their actions and made to face up to what they’ve done, a digital witch-hunt isn’t conducive to growth or change. Celebrities are humans too. They’re not strictly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people who are defined by their mistakes – and neither are we! I’m sure we can all think of a moment where we’ve said or something that our present selves wouldn’t dream of doing now
It’s important to remember that influencers and celebrities hold a lot of power, so giving them the opportunity to reflect on their actions and unlearn dangerous thoughts and biases on a public stage could encourage others to do the same. Instead of ostracising these people, we should be encouraging them to learn and bring others along in the process with them, too.
Life is for learning, and if we cancel people, we’re effectively blocking their learning and absolving them of responsibility and accountability. So let’s think before we cancel and make space for personal growth!