In today’s society, in the digital age, everyone is very vocal about what or whomever they are in support of and what they are against. Everyday there are new terms to describe the social media world and how the world works. For example, “tea” is referring to gossip and people sharing gossip. Other terms you will hear regularly, is culture. Like “stan culture” which refers to obsessive fans when it comes to celebrities. But I want to talk about a specific culture which is “Cancel Culture”. Cancel culture is a term that refers to cancelling people, usually canceling someone refers to celebrities. When someone “cancels” a person, business or organization, they no longer support that person. A person cancels someone by stop buying their products, stop promoting or supporting them online or morally. Typically when a person gets canceled it’s because of something they’ve said, posted or did in the past that the general public doesn’t agree with. Usually those reasoning’s consists of something racist, homophobic, or slander towards a group. Cancel culture can also be because of someone’s morals or political views don’t align with yours. In other words, cancel culture can be seen as the new term for boycotting.
I’m going to give an example of how cancel culture works. The most recent controversial stunt that has happened was with Gucci and Burberry. Recently, Gucci released a sweater that was blackface. It was a black sweater that goes over your nose and it had big red lips carved out. Gucci received backlash and people, specifically the Black community, started to boycott or “cancel” the brand. Everyone vocalized how they aren’t supporting Gucci or buying their clothes anymore. The same thing happened to Burberry, when they released a hoodie that had a noose around it. People started to “cancel” the brand as well, by not buying their things anymore and voicing their disapproval of the brand. Another big example is when Nike released a Colin Kaepernick ad. This really relates to what I’ll be talking about in my post. As a quick recap, Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback who kneeled during the national anthem in protest to the violence against the Black community. It became a huge issue which resulted in him not playing in any games. Later on, Nike released an ad and campaign with Kaepernick. Many people were upset because he went against their views and as a way to protest, people “canceled” Nike. People burned all their Nike things and stopped supporting the brand because Nike supported and worked with Kaepernick.
This specifically relates to what I’ll be talking about, how the nature of Cancel Culture across social media platforms affects people and political/ social justice organizations’ online political presence. Cancel culture can negatively impact a person or an organization and diminish their online political presence. While also prohibiting them from engaging with the community on their own social media platforms. In today's society, it’s fairly easy to get cancelled because of what you post or what you’ve posted in the past that is deemed problematic. Some people fear to share their views because others tend to leave negative comments or unfollow if they don’t like what you’ve said. When it comes to social justice organizations/ people it’s important for them to use their social media platform to inform the community about the issues happening. Social media platforms, specifically Twitter, is their lifeline in a sense of how they can communicate with everyone. Not only do they fear the backlash, but they fear losing followers or even worse their platform. In the text, “Daily Me” by C.R. Sunstein, he talks about a well-functioning system of free expression. While also having social media pick out your personal feed relating to all the things you have an interest in. When thinking about it, cancel culture can help in personalizing someones feed. For instance, on Twitter, you have the ability to mute words and accounts for however long you want. For example, if you mute a social justice account you won’t see their tweets on your feed anymore. You can mute and unmute that account anytime you want and that account won’t know about it.
At times, social justice activists receive more backlash than organizations. Someone that is a topic of discussion is Shaun King. He is an activist, but people feel like he gives out incorrect information or that he doesn’t care about the actual situations, he just wants to be the first person to break a story. King has been someone in the forefront of different protests relaying information on his platform, but some people isn’t a big fan of his. Many don’t support him, they’ve canceled him and tried to get other social media users to stop interacting, but he isn’t cancelled because he still has a big platform and following. So the next question that comes to mind is, if activists and/ or organizations are canceled are they forever canceled, because in some cases people like Shaun King are still thriving on their platforms.
Some negative effects of Cancel culture can be some activists or social justice organizations may not want to speak out about their views. Due to social media, especially Twitter, being a fast paced platform, cancel culture doesn’t give anyone a chance to explain their tweets or explain what they mean. So when someone apologizes, it’s not taken serious. Cancel culture can come across as belittling a person and their opinions. When an activist/ organization is canceled they can be deemed uneducated or not an important person anyone cares about. Cancel culture can hinder activists and the progress they’ve made in the fight towards their cause. For people who are new to Twitter, they could only see the hashtag canceled portion of their career and not want to look into their activism or know more about that person.
Another negative effect of cancel culture is it causes echo chambers. Echo chambers is when your beliefs are magnified. Your beliefs and whatever you support is basically the only thing you see on your social media accounts. Canceling organizations and activists who have opposite views than yours, limits your knowledge and learning opportunities about the opposing views. These echo chambers will make it harder for someone to be open minded about other opinions and beliefs because the only thing that is on someone's social media feed is other people agreeing with the same views you have. Echo chambers can limit you from being challenged intellectually.
People who partake in Cancel culture is so quick to end someone that they don’t take the time to explain why that person is being canceled. Sometimes people can’t learn from their mistakes because they don’t see the problem in what they’ve done. Cancel culture also gives people the opportunity to harass and insult the person instead of educating them as to why their tweet or opinion is wrong. Other activists and organizations may see the damage of what being canceled gets you and they won’t want that for their platform. So some would rather stay quiet and avoid ruffling any feathers.
With every negative there is a positive. Cancel culture does have some positives, like it can be a learning experience for others when it comes to their behavior. Cancel culture can set an example of what not to do or how to act. Those who participate in cancel culture, can also stop racist and negative people from creating issues. In the reading, “Twitter and Tear Gas”, the author, Z. Tufekci, speaks about social media and how it can start movements. In this case, Twitter started Cancel Culture and although it has its negatives, it can be a positive thing as well. Twitter can and has been the source of new fads, challenges, even movements. For example, people in the Middle East believes that Twitter was the cause of the Arab Spring because the activists had access to Twitter.
A positive for some people may be that cancel culture can provide echo chambers. Echo chambers is when your beliefs are magnified. Your beliefs and whatever you support is basically the only thing you see on your social media accounts. Although I listed this as a negative, echo chambers can be a positive for some people as they can communicate with those who share the same beliefs and interests. When an organization or person is canceled, they are blocked, unfollowed, and sometimes their account or any words relating to them are muted. When you block that activist or organization, you don’t see anything on your timeline, allowing yourself to filter your feed to your liking. If a topic is too triggering for someone, in certain cases, these echo chambers can provide a safe space for those mentally and emotionally.
The reading, “In Praise of Echo chambers”, author Emily Parker talks about the positives of echo chambers. They are used in a resistance to things you don’t want to see. Cancel culture serves as a filter bubble in a way. Filter bubbles describes how social media algorithms are used to personalize your timeline. Cancel culture contributes to filter bubbles because once someone “cancels” an organization or a person and unfollows or blocks them, social media algorithms them changes the information on your timeline. Filter bubbles and echo chambers goes hand in hand when cancel culture takes place on someone's timeline.
In my opinion, Cancel culture is a good and bad thing. Cancel culture can be a warning for people to evaluate themselves and their behavior. But even when a lot of brands have been made an example of, others still behave the same way. I’ve seen cancel culture take place many times and the person who was cancelled is still thriving. I’ve seen people cancel others on social media, and within a matter of weeks everything goes back to normal. Cancel culture can be seen as a temporary thing and not being effective at all. To me, it depends on the person and the situation, because some people have been canceled and they are still trying to recover, while others who’ve been canceled are fine. If someone has a loyal following, cancel culture isn’t very effective. Cancel culture isn’t very effective because is what they’re saying morally wrong and problematic? Yes, possibly depending on the topic. But, do they still have a right to exercise their freedom of speech on their own platform? Unfortunately yes.
When it comes to activists and social justice organizations, all they can do is state their views and provide information to inform us on what’s going on. There will always be someone to disagree with your views, but we need to open a healthy dialogue between each other to hear the opposing sides thoughts and try to understand each others reasonings. So activists and organizations need not to be afraid to put their thoughts on social movements out to the public in fear of backlash. Your platform is there for your interests and views and you can use it (morally right, hopefully) however you’d like. It’s our job as social media users to manage our accounts and accept what we want to see and support who we want. Lastly, do what you feel is right for you.
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Chapter 1- "The Daily Me"
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Place of publication not identified: YALE University Press.