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  • Writer's pictureBethany de Guzman

Cancel Culture: Social Media’s New Controversy

Cancel Culture. The semi-new term used to describe the shunning and shaming of public figures or companies due to controversial choices they may have made. Cancel culture has always existed. People have always lost supporters and opportunities due to potentially offensive words or behavior. However, with social media, it’s so easy to quickly put certain people under fire, whether they deserve it or not. Suddenly, a fan favorite can become an evil jerk overnight unexpectedly.

With the advent of Coronavirus, freetime abounds for many. While freetime can be fun, it can also lead to boredom or even desperation and fuel venting through canceling others. During the peak of Coronavirus, it often seemed like a different celebrity was getting "cancelled" everyday. Social media users were attacking seemingly anything and everything people did. The reasons as to why people were getting "cancelled" started to fade from importance, and people were blindly searching for any possible reason to cause drama.

The main two things that cancel culture affects are reputation and employment. Though a loss of supporters can be a huge issue for celebrities and companies, the more dire effect of cancel culture is the way it alters the public’s perception of the person or company. Furthermore, this change in public perception can lead to serious consequences for the target. For example, if an actor is "cancelled", he or she may not have many other job opportunities because his or her future films are more likely to suffer. If a company no longer has a good reputation, its sales will likely plummet. While cancelling someone can take only a few days of aggressively tweeting and attacking for social media users, it can be life-changing for those getting attacked.

Cancel culture is controversial because it has a reasonable and an irrational side. On one hand, cancel culture helps to ensure that bad behavior is not dismissed just because someone is famous. If someone is truly a bad person, he or she should not receive our attention, much less admiration. To this end, cancel culture spreads awareness about which celebrities or companies shouldn’t be backed by the public’s support.

If society were to find out that a makeup brand was treating animals inhumanly and testing products on them, they’d most likely lose a lot of profit as people would stop buying their makeup. In this example, it’s moral and logical that people should not continue supporting a cruel brand.

In many people’s opinion, cancel culture has now become out of control, with people getting "cancelled" for minor and questionable reasons.The ethical reasons to end or alter a celebrity’s career from just a decade ago have evolved into an overly complex and harmful process. Now, it seems like person after person is getting "cancelled" without adequate evidence or reason.

Unfortunately, cancel culture can be extremely selective and toxic. For example, if a new figure rises to fame, people stalk their old accounts maliciously in hopes of finding something that can be used against them. Some of the people searching don’t have any intention of seeing if this person is a good role model; instead, their main goal is only to see if they can find a way to start a social media uproar. The frequent twitter trends caused by this hunt often serve as a way for people to feel relevant and take credit for "finding the evidence" against someone famous. Though it may be fun for the person in the moment, the celebrity’s years of hard work can be ruined because of something minor they said as a teenager.

Cancel culture goes to show that it is utterly impossible to satisfy everyone. When big crises arise, such as a Coronavirus spike or a tropical hurricane, celebrities can get "cancelled" for whatever reaction they may have. They can get "cancelled" for not raising awareness at all, for raising too little awareness, or for raising too much awareness on a platform that doesn’t usually go that route. During the Black Lives Matter movement, certain people were more concerned with judging which celebrities did the right and wrong amount of information spreading, rather than actually focusing on the movement itself. It becomes easy to lose sight of big picture occurrences, and instead shift focus to criticizing others and their supporters. It is often tiring to nitpick the specifics of what other people are doing, and it creates a very negative environment on social media.

Celebrities are also often "cancelled" for saying something uncontroversial that got misinterpreted.

Celebrities are also often "cancelled" for saying something uncontroversial that got misinterpreted. Words can be tricky, and it’s hard to always say the right thing all the time, especially when under the gaze of thousands of people. While sometimes these statements can be intentionally offensive or insensitive, those who make honest one-time mistakes shouldn’t lose their jobs over such incidents. Instead, they should apologize, learn from their mistakes, and do better. Cancel culture prevents growth as an immediate consequence and leads to the demonization of someone who has usually just made a mistake.

Cancel culture also has strange exceptions. Just because someone does something bad doesn’t necessarily mean he or she receives any backlash. Consequently, the term "pretty privilege" emerged, meaning that someone may be excused from their bad actions due to their attractiveness. Additionally, someone who does something bad with fewer followers may be dropped instantly because of a lack of long-standing unity in their fanbase. Celebrities who were unpopular from the start are also more likely to suffer from their newly acquired bad reputation for much longer. The difference in “cancellation” depending on the status of the famous person proves that this trend has reached a point of irrationality.

The growing power of cancel culture is also alarming due to the sheer joy that people seem to get from tearing down big figures. It makes many on social media scared to say or do anything, in fear of a misunderstanding ending their career. It’s unhealthy to receive entertainment from seeing others in distress.

This toxicity can lead to virtual messaging fights on social media and fights between the “fandoms” of opposing or controversial celebrities. So now, not only are public figures getting bashed, random small supporters can also get into unnecessary trouble and drama.

Creating chaos on apps just out of boredom can never be ethically correct, and “canceling” people rarely leads to positive change. That said, sometimes people also make unforgivable decisions in which case they need to be held responsible. It should be the goal of Edgemont students and social media users in general to find the right balance of tolerance and attentiveness when dealing with celebrities online.


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