A well-known trait of social media is how fast trends come and go. In a mere matter of hours, a new slang term ingrains itself into teenage vernacular or an internet meme rises to fame. Cancel culture, the quick mass withdrawal of support for influencers or anyone in the spotlight due to wrongdoing, has likewise been recently popularized.
Cancel Culture acquires mass attention on Twitter, where millions of people are often quick to weigh judgment on whatever matter is trending that day.
Just this week, a video of “Stranger Things” star Noah Schnapp surfaced on the platform where Schnapp sings Chris Brown and Lil Dicky’s “Freaky Friday,” and appears to be singing the n-word. Schnapp has contested that he was saying “neighbor,” and the debate about what word he is truly singing has branched out even to TikTok.
Is cancel culture a valuable way for everyday people to hold celebrities accountable for their actions, or is it a toxic trend that plays on mob mentality?
There is no doubt that public figures need to be held accountable for their actions, especially as many of them are role models for people of all ages. Take for instance R. Kelly; the R&B singer is the focus of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” which documents the stories of Kelly’s pedophilic abusive behavior. This film and outcries on social media influenced the renewed investigation of Kelly.
However, there are also many dangers that cancel culture brings, one of which being creating an atmosphere where many feel too afraid to speak their opinion in fear of backlash. While the United States was founded with the principles of free speech, many are quick to criticize anyone with conflicting views to Twitter’s
In July, Harper’s Magazine published “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” stating that “institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.”
Fear, a powerful tool amplified by retweets, leads companies and influencers alike to quickly grasp for a way to show their repentance. The real changes, the ones that forge a better future, are ones that happen behind the scenes and over time-something the people of this age with short-term attention spans are unwilling to wait for.
In order to protect the institution of effective public debate where people from different backgrounds can come together to discuss their viewpoints without fear of being “canceled,” we all must take a step back and “check ourselves” before the next time we tweet “Twitter, do your thing” and encourage the stifling of free speech.