It’s becoming inescapable. Any person with an online presence is putting themselves at risk of ‘being cancelled’. For some, it is a wave that will pass over them, but for others, it can end their careers.
Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is rejected and removed from certain social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. To cancel someone generally means to stop supporting that person, but can extend to hate comments and even personal threats.
Why has this phenomenon grown exponentially over the past few years? Well, in previous years, someone could make a mistake, or accidentally say something offensive, and more often than not, no one would know about it, and everyone would move on with their lives. However, every moment of our lives is now captured on video. Whether it be videos we create, or people filming our movements, everything we do can be replayed. And, it can be replayed in snippets without any context.
This is a dangerous reality of the world we live in. People make mistakes, but these mistakes can live with people for a long time as they continue to circulate the internet. However, surely people would try to search for the truth? Or lean towards forgiveness instead of harassment? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
This is primarily due to the tall poppy syndrome. This syndrome is common in Australia and New Zealand and describes the cultural phenomenon of mocking people who think highly of themselves. It refers to an egalitarian doctrine where there is an expectation that poppies should grow together, and if one grows too tall, it is cut down to size. Similarly, for public figures with a large following, there is a belief by many, influenced by jealousy, that their following should be reduced.
Charli D’Amelio is a content creator who has recently become the most followed account on the viral video creation app, TikTok. A couple weeks ago, she was nearing 100 million followers. However, a video released by her family’s YouTube channel included some small and innocuous comments by Charli. She was talking about her goals of reaching the 100 million milestone within a timeframe, which was seen by many people as bragging and ungrateful. She then lost 1 million followers and had posts riddled with abusive comments! This is the utter disgrace of cancel culture. Whenever someone with a following does any act which could be considered rude or offensive, there is an immediate reaction of wanting to see them suffer further.
Although the Charli situation demonstrates the complete absurdity of cancel culture, there are other instances where cancel culture has led to positive and encouraging change. Also on TikTok, there has been a strong movement to ban creators who have been accused of committing sexual acts with underage people. The primary catalyst for this was reports and acknowledgement that a content creator called ‘GeminiOfficial’ with over 3.5 million followers had engaged in sexual activity with a minor. The user community was unsurprisingly fast to react and targeted the account so much that it was eventually deleted by TikTok. In this situation, I think the punishment was reasonable, considering this public figure had an incredibly young audience.
So, does this mean that we should encourage cancel culture?
Absolutely not. Cancel culture is a destructive tool that can wrongly destroy innocent people’s lives. Someone being ‘cancelled’ fuels our desire for drama but leads to division and stops the real truth from being revealed.
We can all work together to limit the impact of cancel culture on people’s lives. And it’s not complicated. Don’t follow the crowd. These movements of trying to cancel someone build momentum as it considered the cool thing to do or inspires the belief that because other people are doing it, I should join in too. And as more and more strings of people join, less and less of them are actually joining in because of knowledge of what happened, but just because they want to see someone suffer. It’s cruel, but it’s a strange reality of social media. Like, who at the 2016 Olympics was hoping, fingers crossed, that Usain Bolt would come last and tear his hamstring in the 100 metres?
There will be other circumstances like the situation of GeminiOfficial in the future where you may be itching to join the cancelling movement. Reputable evidence might be released, witnesses may speak out, but I would encourage you not to join in regardless. Contact the police if it’s a severe matter near you, ask them to address the issue, or block them.
The joy of social media is at risk of being overcome by cancel culture, and we cannot let this happen.
“Cancel culture stems from the limiting belief that we have to be perfect to matter”