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Social media has become a tool for activism, socialization and self-expression. Over the past several years, it has become the ideal platform for cancel culture’s growth.
We have witnessed cancel culture affect people’s lives, from celebrities to regular people like you and me. This trend on social media has evolved into a weapon with the potential to ruin lives.
How did cancel culture become so destructive and toxic?
Cancel culture began in 2015 on Twitter as a joke, a reaction to someone who acted in a way that others disapproved of.
Fast forward five years and cancel culture has evolved into a toxic trend on social media designed to bring down celebrities, brands and shows from their pedestal in pop culture for acting in a way that is offensive to the masses or supporting a particular ideology.
When this trend involves celebrities, what usually occurs is that tweets, photos and videos resurface, either from the celebrity’s past or more recently.
Typically, what they find is the celebrity in question is caught saying derogatory comments that are insensitive to particular groups. Fans and other social media users take it upon themselves to comment their thoughts on the actions done by the celebrity or brand, leading to boycotting their work and products and unfollowing them from all platforms. Consequently, this hurts their careers and the brands they have built.
It happened recently with Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, who has come under fire for her comments towards transgender folks. Rowling’s behavior caused an uproar amongst her fans, who were in shock upon reading the comments made by the author, who created a world they can identify themselves with.
In this case, canceling Rowling is hard because her series became a pop culture phenomenon, but social media knew it needed to be done. Now, when we think of anything remotely to Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling has become disassociated from the series.
In another instance, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn faced scrutiny in 2018 for offensive tweets that resurfaced, leading to fans canceling him. His role as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was jeopardized and he was fired by Disney.
Cancel culture worked in bringing James Gunn down from his pedestal but also failed in keeping it that way; almost a year later, Gunn was reinstated as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Cancel culture promotes a mob mentality that is often toxic because it gives people online a power they have never experienced before. The power they possess is informal since social media users can unfollow and choose to ignore the person whom they are canceling.
This power can lead to messy endings and vicious searches into people’s personal lives. All someone has to do is tweet, “Twitter, do your thing,” and minutes later someone is canceled.
This happened to Amy Cooper, who called the cops on Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher in Central Park, after asking her nicely to put her dog’s leash back on because it was a park rule.
After the video went viral, people took it upon themselves to dig into the life of Amy Cooper, discovering where she worked and getting her fired. Christian Cooper, who took and published the video of his interaction with Amy Cooper, stated that he posted the video to serve as a lesson, not to have strangers to get her fired from her job.
One shouldn’t have to go to the depths of finding out someone’s job to have that person canceled and learn a lesson. Yes, I’m aware that what Amy Cooper did was wrong and that she should be reprimanded for her actions, but her penalty should not have been as destructive as it was.
I am not justifying her actions, but we shouldn’t have to act like vigilantes taking down a villain. That is the toxic power that cancel culture gives to people.
As ironic as it might sound, we need to cancel “cancel culture.”
The toxic environment created by this trend has a destructive purpose to end someone’s life. This hurts people personally, even if the act of canceling is done online.