As a thirty-year-old millennial, I’ve grown up with the internet. I’m older than Google and Youtube. When I tell my children that, they look at me like I belong in a museum – I feel like I do too. Alas, I was there to see the birth of the internet. I’ve witnessed meme culture explode in popularity. I saw the Kony 2012 scandal, the ice bucket challenge, the harlem shake and the cinnamon challenge when they were all brand new. I watched the first wave of YouTubers, met them and even got drunk with them at a youtube convention in 2012 – but that’s a story for another day!
I’ve created content across many platforms and gained myself a small but respectable following. I grew up with the internet and being the introvert I am, the internet and popular culture have shaped me as a person.
Amongst many of the great memes I’ve seen come to life, fantastic people I’ve met, and content I’ve both seen and helped create; There’s one byproduct of internet culture I couldn’t have ever anticipated.
The birth of the influencer.
It blew my mind (and honestly, it still does) that anyone can become a celebrity in their own right from one piece of content that gets picked up and goes viral online. One piece of content can thrust anybody into the spotlight which can ensure lucrative brand partnerships, freebies and a loyal ride-or-die following. Influencer culture can make anybody a star.
However, there is a much darker side to the influencer culture. Cancel culture is rife amongst influencers, celebrities and in some cases, normal internet users. Being ‘cancelled’ often spells the end of their career for many influencers.
So what is cancel-culture? What does it mean to be cancelled?
What is cancel culture?
When a person is ‘cancelled’, it often refers to a celebrity/influencer/user being found out of having said or done scandalous things; not neglecting things hidden deep in their past. A person is usually ‘cancelled’ when internet users find ableist, racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic content (amongst a broad spectrum of other reprehensible content) from a creator.
Upon audiences finding out that a popular figure is responsible for having said or done unjustifiable things; they’re usually subject to mass-unfollowing, brand partnerships falling apart and tarnishing their career. Being cancelled is often career-ending for many creators.
Why cancel culture is good sometimes
The prevalence of cancel culture is a sign that modern society is looking to call out indecent, inconsiderate or immoral content. I think most of us want a kind and accepting world and calling out unacceptable behaviour paves the way for a more inclusive, respectful society.
Many believe cancelling someone can be justified as it lets creators know what their audiences expect from them. Audiences show solidarity by rejecting content that could be seen as morally reprehensible. Essentially, it holds creators accountable for the content they put out into the world. It can also be argued that it helps protect and teach young viewers of societal expectations.
Another avenue of justification for cancel-culture is where children are directly at risk. Unfortunately, we live in a world where children can become targets of grooming or exploitation. I think that everyone reading this post would agree that in this vein, cancelling anybody who has ill intentions when it involves children (or any vulnerable person for that matter) categorically deserves to lose their audience and platform.
What are the costs of ‘cancelling’ to the entertainment industry?
In a world where anyone can become a viral sensation overnight, internet stardom can come as an unexpected shock to many creators. Traditional celebrities such as Hollywood A-Listers have a team of public relations representatives who are responsible for making sure the content they post online is inoffensive. Traditional celebrities are also more likely to have had some degree of media training which help prepare them for interacting and conducting themselves when it involves the media. Influencers, TikTok stars and Yotubers are less likely to know how to conduct themselves when they are thrust into the limelight unexpectedly.
Examples of cancel-culture
Internet sensation Jenna Marbles spectacularly quit her Youtube career after the resurface of old “shameful” videos she made.
Another example is make-up creator and beauty guru James Charles who has had multiple allegations made against him.
Does cancel culture ever go too far? Why it can be toxic.
I’ve spoken about people getting cancelled for reprehensible actions, but there are other ways people get cancelled too. When ‘cancelling’ first came into existence, it was only used for only calling out unjustifiable actions. Now, we see influencers getting cancelled for pretty much anything! I’ve experienced audiences trying to cancel creators for things such as foods they’ve eaten, their product uses and preferences and even things about their personality traits or appearance.
Audiences are able to cancel pretty much anyone for anything which is not only toxic but puts strain on the mental health of creators. Many creators now feel apprehensive to share parts of their life or their opinions because they’re worried it might ultimately result in the loss of their career or earnings. This can put significant strain on a creator’s mental health.
Another aspect to consider when we discuss cancelling someone is the mental health of the person being cancelled. We don’t know how some people might react to being cancelled -some may be able to just brush it off and continue with their careers, and others might struggle with the pressure from their audience.
Many creators have expressed anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts after being cancelled. Some have even reported getting death threats as a result of their actions.
Cancel cultures’ effect on the entertainment industry
Some will argue that ‘cancelling’ people and policing their free speech has the potential to make the media we consume too dull and squeaky clean. Comedy, for example, is an art form built on a foundation making light of other people and situations. Many people question whether comedy can still thrive in a world where offensive and sensitive topics are off-limits.
Is there room for ‘cancelling’ in 2022?
Many will say that cancel culture is out of control, and there are many internet users who are very anti cancel culture.
Cancel culture is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Should we cancel people in 2022? In my opinion, an open discussion with creators about morality and laying out expectations of inoffensive and good-natured content isn’t a bad thing.
Ultimately, there is no scale of morality and no way to truly know if someone is sorry, grown or changed their ways once they’ve been cancelled.
However, cancel-culture can definitely go too far. Sending death threats, doxing or harassment of creators should be seen as reprehensible too.
Please share your opinion in the comments below, please remember to be kind and constructive!