Through many conversations with family and friends, I feel compelled to discuss the topic of “cancel culture” here on my blog. Its growth in popularity has lead to a number of effects which could be seen as harmful and toxic.
Created by use of social media, it has had significant impact and I aim to look at this from an individual perspective as well as a societal standpoint. As I don’t have social media myself and discovered this concept via YouTube, I have based some of my points from learning about the personal experiences of others close to me.
What is “cancel culture?”
It’s commonly described as cancelling out a person or community from social media platforms based upon something they have said or done.
When put simply, it sounds somewhat reasonable in terms of a rejection in support to someone of influence. However, the severity of the accusation is important as this is more that just boycotting. It is highlighting the issue at the extreme and therefore having significant impact on the person or people involved.
How did it start?
It has been suggested that it most likely originated from a Twitter hashtag, used years previously to tackle the then new evidence of criminal acts performed by certain celebrities.
My own assumption would be that it probably began with good intentions. Having come to the realisation that an idol had been abusing their power, it’s an understandable reaction to share one’s disgust and consequently show support for the people who had been affected. But cancel culture targets issues that range greatly in severity, which can be a problem.
The rise in popularity…
I do believe there are many factors that have influenced this rise in popularity and caused so many people to partake. These theories are based upon my own feelings surrounding this topic and so could have had little impact in reality. In saying that, I still feel it is important to share them in order to further contextualise the situation.
Having first learnt about cancel culture through YouTube, I believe it to have had influence. The growth of this platform and it’s users has provided an easy opportunity in creating communities. With these large numbers comes power and unfortunately this can then be directed negatively towards a content creator with great impact.
Leading on from this, the distance between celebrities and their supporters has started to close, I believe, perhaps as the accessibility to having influence has increased through platforms such as YouTube. Or perhaps this is a result of more stories coming to light about the abusive behaviour or lack of responsibility shown by certain famous figures, and therefore, there could be a fear in providing that power. In respecting, but not idolising people, would give more confidence in the ability to judge fairly. And I can’t see anything wrong with this. What cancel culture does though is recognise the unachievable, high standards but then hold people to them and criticises those who don’t. Especially as the past of those individuals is analysed too, it becomes very problematic.
I’ve noticed that over the last five years or so, there has been an increasing awareness of political correctness. Although this has had some educational benefits, I do think it has negatively influenced cancel culture. It’s a standard that people can now look for and it is taken very seriously by some. The difficultly comes when the interactions are all online and so misinterpretations are easy and intent is often missed.
Personally, I cannot think of anything positive that cancel culture may have resulted in. Pointing out a resolvable mistake is very different to generating drama and spreading hate in the process, which is how I see this concept. There is no need to be this extreme.
From an individual point of view, there are obvious harmful effects. It’s clear that this way of communicating does not promote self-development but encourages shame and guilt. When anyone online can be scrutinised in such a way, it can promote feelings of anxiety and fear of sharing opinions publicly. It could even, in more severe cases, result in not wanting to have any opinions to avoid all possibility of offence. This of course would be completely unhealthy as opinions should be allowed to change and used as a tool to determine personal growth. Being exposed to so many judgements online could also make someone become very self-critical. Equally, this could lead to becoming more judgemental of those around them too. And there is no need for this.
When an online presence is a large part of someone’s career, the direct exposure to cancel culture could potentially have detrimental affects on their livelihood. Mistakes are part of being human and I don’t feel this is usually taken into consideration. Naturally, it will depend on the individual incident, but if something is mistakenly taken out of context for example, there are bound to be consequences.
From a societal standpoint, there can be a number of negative effects. Many old released programmes have been taken down from streaming platforms due to a number of complaints related to cancel culture and I personally don’t agree with it. Censorship shouldn’t be the answer. Even if the content portrayed a particular outlook, I feel as though the streaming sites should not have their own opinion but provide that service and allow the viewers to use the content as a research tool.
History is a subject I enjoy learning about and I believe it to be important. It cannot simply be forgotten or cut out. It is there as a reminder of our growth of society and how we have evolved. It helps us to progress further. Cancel culture uses the past to create further shame, rather than learning from it and moving forward.
Humour is an interesting topic that relates to the programmes that have been taken down. I think what is sometimes skipped over is looking at both context and intent before quickly jumping to conclusions and making a judgement. Not everyone will find the same joke funny and entertaining, but that doesn’t make it automatically offensive. In some cases perhaps it isn’t obvious what the target of the joke is, but making assumptions and forming accusations doesn’t have to be done so instantly. Humour is subjective and there is nothing wrong with that.
What to do in replacement…
I understand the need in being able to trust the people we look up to but cancel culture doesn’t help in this. We cannot protect everyone from offence because that wouldn’t be possible. But things can change for the better and I’ve come up with a few suggestions.
Firstly, there is no need to be holding these influences, or anyone else for that matter, to such a high standard. Making someone aware of a mistake that had perhaps not been noticed can be extremely useful. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is prone to making mistakes and so having that expectation in the first place will help.
Secondly, if mistakes have been pointed out and haven’t been considered, then simply boycott. There may be feelings of disappointment but in this way there is no hassle or fuss involved. If there are more serious, legal matters involved then those should be dealt with legally and privately.
Thirdly, if there is a genuine fear of a young person being too influenced by someone online, then that must be a parent or guardian’s responsibility to monitor what they view. There does not have to be any hate involved here.
Fourthly, and finally, I believe this existing passion could be put to good use on current issues that affect us all around the world. Clothing companies like Primark and Forever 21 are exploiting our environment for financial gain. With global warming a serious issue, perhaps it would make more sense to start creating our own, individual, standards and putting them to the test.
Although it may have started with good intentions, it’s clear to me that there is a need for a replacement of cancel culture. The key to change would be keeping an open-minded, on all sides, and not being quick to judge. Everyone has different viewpoints depending on the subject matter and that is completely natural.
There are so many negative effects that can be avoided just by having discussions and talking about difficult issues. Resolving matters in this way would mean less misinterpretations and the freedom to express an opinion without feeling an automatic judgement.
What do you think?
Don’t be shy – let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Cancel culture has become a really interesting topic to talk about and it was tricky to cover all aspects of it. So, I would love to know your thoughts on its effects, good or bad, whether that be from a personal perspective or looking at the bigger picture.