The Toxicity of Cancel Culture

The ease of social media, coupled with our need to win the approval of others, has led to a damaging trend.

Twitter+has+been+one+of+the+main+social+media+platforms+that+instigate+cancel+culture.+

photo by Maria Cima

Twitter has been one of the main social media platforms that instigate cancel culture.

By Kendel Barber, North Allegheny Senior High School

In recent years, predominantly due to the rise in social media, “cancel culture” has become a defining attitude of our generation. A 21st century form of boycott, usually an influencer or celebrity who has made a mistake or shared an unpopular opinion, cancel culture thrives, like practically everything else in internet culture, on the bandwagon effect.  Yet not always does the offense warrant the level of viciousness that the attacks bring.

What is the goal of the attackers? One underlying benefit for the person doing the canceling is the feeling it brings of solidarity with others. Our opinions often feel validated when others jump on board. In other words, when we cancel others, we feel a boost in our social status and self-esteem.

The toxicity of the culture is especially sinister because it discourages individual thought at the expense of others.

Sure, some recent moments of cancel culture seems justifiable. For example, the singer R. Kelly was “cancelled” after allegations of sexual misconduct and was arrested for his actions soon after.

But more frequently, people get cancelled for much less egregious things, but numerous celebrities, from Kanye West to James Charles to Taylor Swift, have been cancelled in recent years for reasons ranging from political provocative opinions to feuds with other celebrities. We immediately get caught up in the drama and don’t take the time to form our own opinions on the matter.

Admittedly, I am in no way above the drama, as I have definitely gotten caught up in cancel culture. When I see a trending tag on Twitter, “so and so CANCELLED,” I click on it just to see what they possibly could have done. 

While social media has brought undeniable benefits to our lifestyles, cancel culture must be listed among its detriments, alongside cyberbullying. Often in the comfort of online anonymity, we spend hours scrutinizing others to pick out their downfalls. It’s especially evident with celebrities: their followers dig up old tweets or posts from decades ago that may not have aged well, and suddenly, the celebrities are cancelled. Even if they provide a lengthy, heartfelt apology, it ends the same.

Of course, I am not saying that people should not be held accountable for their actions, but clearly this is not the right way. 

We have to realize that cancel culture is extremely harmful. It can destroy a person’s career, their reputation, and possibly their mental health. There is always going to be someone with whom we do not agree, but boycotting them and rallying a mob of strangers online to destroy them is not the way to handle it. 

Even more troubling is that the danger of cancel culture has spread outside the world of celebrities and social media. We cancel people we know, which I see in the halls of NASH almost every day. One person says they do not like someone else and pressures all of their friends to cut the person out of their lives. 

Instead of cancelling or ghosting others due to a dislike of them, we should try to distance ourselves from them peacefully. Damaging another’s self-esteem for insufficient reason is never warranted. 

This story was originally published on The Uproar on February 19, 2020.