Cancel culture, tool or weapon?
Cancel culture, possibly one of if not the biggest miss use of social media. Where people lives can be terminated in a matter of minutes. With the rise of social media, the world is more connected than ever, people from all over capable of communicating as if the other person were simply across the table from them. Along with this kind of tech comes a new profound power. The ability to cancel (a form of shaming) anyone for saying/doing something the public doesn’t agree with. With this kind of power the people could use it for good in order to help bring change. But instead we use it to burn normal people’s lives for nothing more than some clicks or views online. Instead of bringing change like we could, we’d rather destroy the lives of relatively innocent people for what, social justice? Please tell me what does the destruction of people’s lives do that help make that person better?
The short answer, it doesn’t, and there isn’t an exact group that is targeted either. People don’t only go after the Klansman, or neo Nazis. They’ll target anyone for any reason. You can easily go from the canceler to the canceled with the snap of your fingers. A perfect example of this was from a NPR podcast called “The callout.” The podcast talked about a punk Rockstar named Emily who was a member of a hardcore punk band in Richmond, Va. One day while on tour she received news that her best friend was accused of sending unwelcomed sexual pictures to a woman. Her friend of course denied these allegations, however Emily didn’t buy it and in an act of social justice took to face book to publicly denounce her ,now ex bestfriend, as an abuser. “I disown everything he has done. I do not think it’s O.K…I believe women.” Through her “righteous” acts her former friend basically lost everything, he was kicked from his band, forced to leave the punk scene, Emily even heard rumors that he was fired, evicted, and forced to move to a new city. With one post she destroyed everything that man had for not even commiting the act but rather the allegation of it. Just think about that, a life destroyed over the accusation of a photo, and as her former friend suffered she prospered fronting her own band. But as fate would have it her actions of canceling would come back to haunt her. A few years later she would get exposed for posting an emoji in a group chat as a response for a indecent picture of a former high school classmate that was sent nearly a decade prior. Just as she denounced her friend a few years before people came after her. She was kicked from the punk scene, her friends left her, and she was forced into hiding for months. As for her canceler? He was a man named Herbert who when interviewed described calling her out ”… a rush of pleasure, like an orgasm.” Then when asked if he cared about what Emily went through after he cold heartily responded ”..I literally do not care about what happens to (her) after the situation. I don’t care if she’s dead, alive, whatever.”
While true that these canceled people have said or done some really regrettable things that are clearly not acceptable in today’s world, there is really one difference between us and them. They were caught doing their act. Anyone that says they have never said or done something deemed socially unacceptable is quite frankly lying. We as people are prone to make undesirable mistakes, that’s what comes with developing as a person. But for a majority of us these incidents aren’t put online, they aren’t exposed to the web for all to see and judge, also its important to note that even though these people messed up, they are still people, with thoughts and dreams, and feelings. For when we ignore these facts we can truly become inhumane in our actions.
Cancel culture itself stems from public shaming. They are one in the same with the only difference is that cancel culture is directly rooted on the internet while public shaming can occur just about anywhere. As described in D, Trottier’s ”Coming to terms with shame” Shaming itself is “…necessarily assembled, as it depends on a loosely and often spontaneously arranged network of actors to convey denunciation.” Meaning that it can only occur when people deem it fit to be. Further going on stating ”Digitals tools further the expansion of such networks, a development that is of particular concern for surveillance scholars.” Due to current technology anything that is caught on camera can instantly be posted and forwarded online leading from one person having their hands on the video/photo to millions in under an hour. Because of this extreme growth its incredibly easy for people watching these recent videos to reach conclusion’s before hearing out the full story, leading to a extremely fast and usually brutal cancellation.
The creation of social media only flames cancel cultures growth. Look no further than the story previously mentioned that involved Emily. Both her cancellation and her former friends reached the level of severity it did because of social media’s reach. You would never see a story about posting a emoji in a group chat to make fun of someone ever reach the news. However it’s not hard at all to see it get posted on Twitter or Facebook and watch it spread like wildfire. That’s because social media grants cancellers something that the news never could for public shaming. It sheaths the cancellers behind a profile, able to remain completely anonymous(if he/she wanted) , and rarely forces them to face the consequences for their cancelations.
Brooks, David . 2019. “The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture.” New York Times, January 14. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/opinion/call-out-social-justice.html.
Trottier, D. (2018). Coming to terms with shame: Exploring mediated visibility against transgressions. Surveillance & Society, 16(2), 170-182. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.rowan.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fcoming-terms-with-shame-exploring-mediated%2Fdocview%2F2138979618%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D13605
The callout. (2018, April 13). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2018/04/13/601971617/the-callout