AuthenticityEmotion ManagementEmotional IntelligenceMental Health

The Toxic Repercussions of Cancel Culture

cancel culture graphic by @spooky_soda

Graphic by @spooky_soda

CW: emotional abuse, cyberbullying, death threats

Some people don’t like to involve themselves in drama, whether it be with celebrity/public figures or just within their own lives. But others do participate or watch closely, thus leading to the high probability of Cancel Culture showing its head.

A toxic and overbearing concept, Cancel Culture does more harm than good.

Now, I won’t lie to you — I have strong opinions about Cancel Culture. Although I’m aware of what message it tries to get out, I can’t help but notice the repercussions that have come from it and how it reflects past experiences I’ve went through. And to see that this is what younger generations are being exposed to? I feel sad thinking of the lessons we are teaching, and the types of communication and advocacy we encourage people to participate in or practice.

Cancel Culture “is the idea that saying the wrong thing, having old inflammatory tweets or sound bytes resurface or having unpopular political reviews will ultimately result in social media users ‘canceling’ the offending party.” By participating in Cancel Culture, the hope is to “cancel” a person by making it known to the whole internet world that they have problematic behavior and/or have done something problematic. It’s to say that they don’t deserve the support that they have been given, the fans that stand by them, or the love that surrounds them. Cancel Culture, at its roots, is “Call Out Culture” and is straight up toxic when thousands of people stand behind it, morphing it into something that aims to hurt the people they are trying to cancel. (I’m not excusing people who have poor behavior, but I want to make it clear why Cancel Culture has transformed into something that people make into something worse).

So, why do I feel Cancel Culture is toxic?

Well, for one, it assumes that people are supposed to be “woke” at all times and once they slip up, they are automatically a bad person because of it. Sure, you can reference past mistakes as “proof” but I’ve noticed that people online can not only join the bandwagon of hating on a person, but they can also fabricate lies to make a person seem worse than they actually are. It gives a person an unfair chance to change, the inability to speak without being shot down, and it increases hatred in the world, all of which I do not approve of because we are so capable of doing better. It’s 2019 after all.

Let’s bring up the James Charles incident that has been revolving the internet the past couple of weeks. It’s a complex situation with multiple layers and the unknown factor of who is telling the truth. But essentially, to summarize the situation, James Charles’ has been the subject of Cancel Culture recently in the “beauty community,” mainly evident on platforms such as Youtube and Instagram. His former mentor and friend, Tati, explained why she felt betrayed for a sponsorship he allegedly “planned” prior to Coachella without telling her. This brand is a competitor for her vitamin brand. She then proceeded to make a video on Youtube talking about how she no longer wants to be associated with James, how he is a sexual predator, and how he needs to grow up. By making this video, James lost over 2 million subscribers (I think?) in the span of 24 hours, the fastest loss of subscribers ever known. He got multiple death threats throughout this period of time, as well as consistent hate everyday from strangers who only heard Tati’s side and didn’t even want to hear his. The internet banded together to “cancel” James Charles, and although he is in the wrong for his behavior, the claims of being a sexual predator, forcing straight men to believe they aren’t and using fame + money to get what he wants was already fishy material to me, since I felt like a lot of “opinions” were being thrown around, rather than facts. And the general public believed the opinions to be true, which is where this mess of Cancel Culture really begins to irk me.

These claims were certainly fueled by emotion, which is the part I have a problem with. I know people have strong opinions of what they believe to be right, and in this case, I am also using emotion to speak about a topic that hits a particular pain point of mine, but there was so much emotion behind Tati’s public video that people couldn’t help but side with her and go against James. With a huge following like that, influencers need to be aware of what happens when personal lives get mixed up in their public lives. Emotion can be displayed, but it shouldn’t blur the lines of what is reality and what is opinion. And if you let out opinions, you have to be willing to accept you were fueled by emotion and can now come from a level headed place to speak about the matter. But instead, Cancel Culture reaped its head in this situation by giving the opportunity for people who don’t know the situation or James Charles to immediately make an assumption about his character and essentially bully him to the point of jeopardizing his career (when, mind you, all that could have been done was a private conversation where the friendship could have ended without the public eye hovering).

Another reason why I feel Cancel Culture is so toxic is because it’s so prevalent in our news and social media feeds. (Again, think of the James Charles incident I mentioned in the previous section of this post). This means that younger generations, people who are growing up with this technology and access to the internet, are being exposed to drama, negativity, and #cancelculture so much that they begin to believe it’s okay. They don’t question why it’s problematic, they don’t question what information is “reliable,” rather they choose to participate because it’s happening everywhere. We need to spark conversation around this issue because we don’t want to teach people that there is a certain level of “woke”-ness and “perfection” we must have, or else we are deemed as problematic and are subject to being attacked by strangers on the internet. We also need to teach people the power of forgiveness and boundaries. If you find someone problematic and have drama with them, let them be and move forward with your life. Or better yet, address the issue in private and speak to the person you have drama with directly, not by “subtweeting” or harassing them over the internet. They don’t need to be important in your life so don’t give them the power to influence your well being. There is also is nothing good that comes from joining a bandwagon of hate for people you don’t even know. What does that say about you? Are you any better than these celebrities?

Now, straying away from this public situation, I wanted to bring in a personal example of when I was cyber bullied in high school. In middle school, I was problematic (or at least, I had problematic tendencies). I was a typical, insecure girl who talked smack about people behind their back. Specifically, I body shamed someone and told people how I didn’t understand why people liked her and not me, which I know now was completely uncalled for and inconsiderate of me to say. I apologized and moved forward from it. However, this instance from middle school was brought up during the end of my freshman year of high school, when there was drama about the person I was dating at the time. Rumors started to spread, ranging from me being a fake nice person to being a home wrecker. It was around the time that Formspring.me and Tumblr were a thing, and I was bombarded daily with anonymous messages saying things like:

  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “You have an ugly personality.”
  • “You’re such a fake friend for stealing the guy she liked.”
  • “He should break up with you.”
  • “You aren’t even worth it.”
  • “You should drink some bleach and die :)”

And so on, and so forth. I even had a tumblr dedicated to hating me. I think the url was erilhaters.tumblr.com or ihateeril.tumblr.com (it was deleted so I don’t mind sharing the link that it once was). This site was filled with emotionally abusive posts that affected my mental well being because I couldn’t help but read what “strangers” thought of me. Pictures of me were photoshopped, stories about me were written, and anonymous messages plus their responses from the “hate” tumblr just filled the dashboard. This was the Cancel Culture that I experienced before the term was even coined and used as frequently as it is today, and I always told myself back then that I never would wish this experience upon anyone.

What hurt me about this situation the most was how quick my “friends” were to judge me for a mistake I made before and define me by mistakes, in the hopes it would lead to my demise. I thought these were my “friends,” but I learned at a young age that people don’t need to sabotage you to keep you in check, a private conversation would have done the job but I never was given that chance. They only heard one side of the story, saw the person who was hurt, and automatically sided with them, seeing me as the bad person. My faults were brought to the surface, amplified, and my voice was taken away. People who didn’t even know me began to bandwagon on this internet war of dramatic 9th graders trying to cancel me. I was young, I was scared and I was surprised at how the internet fostered so much hatred for a person that didn’t deserve the extent of bullying that she received.

My point in bringing up this dark time in my life is to say that Cancel Culture is toxic, and it has existed before the James Charles situation and it may continue after this. But we need to put an end to the toxic repercussions it has. As a society, we need to notice when it happens and come from a place of love and understanding, not hate and picking sides. Cancel Culture has the potential of “cancelling” specific political figures that are problematic, but it can get overbearing and mixed up with too many opinions and not enough facts. Even with good intentions, Cancel Culture has strong potential to ruin people rather than invite them to learn what was wrong with what they did or said in the first place. If we decide from this point on that #cancelcultureshouldbecancelled, just imagine what good could come out of it.

What do you think of Cancel Culture? Have you experienced something similar or do you have opinions of previous Cancel Culture situations that you followed? Let me know in the comments!

Oh, and if you’re interested in reading more about Cancel Culture, I found this article to be intriguing as well.

5 thoughts on “The Toxic Repercussions of Cancel Culture

  1. This is really interesting to me. I had not heard the term cancel culture before, mostly because I don’t participate in that world. But reading this article I was reflecting on a course I’m taking right now which talks about the four stages of spiritual development. The first stage is victimhood, blaming other people or external circumstances for the state of one’s life. Underlying this stage is shame which then in many cases gets projected on to other people. Because people are in pain, they choose to inflict it on others so they feel relief. Awareness of what we’re doing is the first step, and your article is helping to bring that to light. Important!

    1. Hi Katherine! I’m glad you don’t participate in the world of cancel culture because we don’t need more people in it — we need more people against it. I like how you use some of the lessons you learned in your coursework in a real world example, to ensure you are understanding the content! I agree that when people are in pain, they tend to project their pain onto other people and the only way to stop is to become aware of what you’re doing. Hopefully this article sheds light on the issue to a greater audience. One step at a time.

  2. I had never heard this term before but always felt like it was a thing. I’m glad to see there are people who see it as wrong and are willing to speak up. Thank you for sharing the story in hopes it will help others.

    1. Hey Stephanie — a lot of people haven’t heard of the “term” but it certainly does exist. I knew I couldn’t stay silent as I saw everything unfold. And in a way, it’s something I wish my 9th grade self would have known so I’m open to speaking up about the issue. Thank you for reading <3

  3. Thank you for sharing your personal experience as a kid – I was also bullied as a child and relate to a lot of this.

    I’d also like to share that I had the unfortunate experience of losing one of my best female friends during freshman year to an emotionally abusive relationship. Her abuser was also female and queer, and used that to her advantage … she often used this idea of Cancel Culture and disposability politics to isolate my friend from other people who loved and cared about her. She’d say things like “He’s a man, so his ego’s probably as big as that building” or “Your sister really doesn’t seem to mind white people.” She reduced people to the negative things they did or represented because of their privilege, and my friend began to do the same as well. They made assumptions and said nasty things behind the backs of many people who thought they were good friends, and that’s when my friend gradually ceased contact with me. I saw a lot of deceit, toxicity and manipulation continue to fester in that relationship, but feel powerless to do anything, as they’re still together.

    I know a lot of awesome people in social justice who are active for the right reasons – because they care about their community and society. However, there are also people who use the phrase “social justice” as a excuse to put down people who are “problematic” or exhibit greater privileges in society, completing shutting down their questions or opinions. I strongly believe that more people should work on educating their friends and holding discussions with them in private to move forward, instead of brushing off opportunities to educate people who care but don’t have much experience on certain subjects.

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