It seems like not a day goes by where we don’t open Twitter and see a hashtag trending that looks like #AnselElgortIsOverParty or #ShaneDawsonIsCanceled, but with any given celebrity name. When we click on it, it can be a joke, like a video going viral of the person pouring milk before their cereal. Or it can be something that is much more serious, like the celebrity being exposed for being a racist. As “canceling” people grows in popularity, it has many asking, has this gone too far?
The short answer to the above question is yes. In my mind, of course, people need to be held accountable for their wrongdoings. However, canceling those who are disliked by the general public because of their controversial actions is not effective for several reasons. First off, it trends over other issues, like Black Lives Matter and Justice for Breonna Taylor. It also immediately discredits the targeted celebrity forever, when people could use the situation as a way to educate them and others on what not to say and do. After they are canceled, it seems like no one actually cares about their apology or them owning up to their mistakes. Of course, everyone has the right to dislike them until the end of time, but in my opinion, trending hashtags can be a misstep, especially after the hashtag is flooded with irrelevant information that dilutes the original intent.
This culture of online shaming has grown and become such a central point of today’s social media that even former president Barack Obama has weighed in, saying “This is not activism.” Today, it seems as though people are more focused on exposing people for their mistakes on Twitter than on actual activism.
Social media is a huge medium for raising awareness of social issues. It is used for spreading information and is able to give marginalized people a platform to express themselves and voice their opinions. Since #MeToo went viral in 2017, more and more women have been able to raise their voices and share their stories about sexual harassment and assualt. According to a study done by Statista, as of April 2020, over 35% of the 81.46 million monthly users on Twitter are under the age of 25. This means that most young people, especially teenagers, are getting exposed to information, giving them a safe place to share their stories, get support, and voice themselves. It also exposes young people to the notion that people deserve to be canceled and bullied for their mistakes, rather than getting the opportunity to learn from them.
Unfortunately, cancel culture has spread beyond celebrities. Many regular people are getting canceled on Twitter, and for a range of causes. Sometimes, it is someone getting called out for being racist or homophobic. But other times, it is a big account bullying another user and having them “canceled” for something as small as disliking a specific band. This often leads to repercussions, with their thousands of followers attacking the person, sometimes even resulting in the person deactivating their account or harming themselves due to the mass amounts of threats and hatred being thrown at them.
Although the use of the term “cancel culture” has only exploded in the past two years, the idea has been floating around for a while. In 2016, Kim Kardashian refuted Taylor Swift’s claim that Kanye West didn’t alert her about a provocative lyric. Swift rebutted Kardashian’s statement, and said that she was “falsely painted as a liar.” Shortly after, #TaylorSwiftIsCanceled was trending. “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being,” Swift told Vogue. “You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, kill yourself.”
Personally, I agree with Taylor Swift that it’s not effective or okay to do this. If canceling celebrities was truly effective, we wouldn’t be seeing the same problematic people trending on Twitter every week. It’s obvious that people need to be called out for being terrible human beings, especially when they have been proven to be hateful towards a specific group, or have sexually assaulted someone. However, use of cancellation has progressed to a point where people are canceled for something without any proof, or for opinions or conflicts with others. Less than two weeks ago, 5 Seconds of Summer member Michael Clifford was accused of sexual harassment, and canceled on Twitter. The same day, more was uncovered, accusing two of his bandmates, Calum Hood and Luke Hemmings, of misconduct. About a day after, it came out that these claims were false and part of a scheme to defame the members. Cancellation has become such a trend that it has begun to happen to not only celebrities, but normal people, and is used as an attempt to ruin careers and lives of the victims. When this happens to non-celebrities, most of the time, it ends up with them being “doxxed.” If you aren’t familiar with this term, it means to use the internet to research and publicly broadcast private information, specifically that which can put the targeted person in danger. This sometimes includes sharing addresses, school names, work places, and sometimes even contacting family members.
In my opinion, if you prove to be racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, etc., you deserve the wrath of social media. Maybe in the long run, it will make people afraid to be all of those things, just like they used to be before 2016. Still, I don’t think it’s acceptable to do this to people over something as simple as not liking a certain type of music, because not only can it lead to their mental health rapidly depleting, but it can also result in them being doxxed, and putting them in danger, either with their family or with people showing up at their home. Recently, a trans non-binary Twitter user was “canceled” over supposedly not liking certain members of a band, and as a result, they were outed to their very strict Muslim family, putting them in serious danger. This type of behavior is not okay in any way, and cancel culture has gone way too far if stuff like this is going to become normalized.
By: Allison Caskey, Feature Writer