The Risk Of Cancel Culture

By Ethan Connors

Twitter has become the judge, jury and executioner in today’s cancel culture.

Cancel culture refers to the act of boycotting or withdrawing support for an individual, group or
company that has behaved in an offensive way. Canceling someone makes them accountable for
their actions. However, this practice can quickly evolve from awareness to cyber slander.

Social media content does not require proof or evidence. Anyone and almost anything can be posted on
different social media platforms which dangerously leads to cyberbullying. The negative mental
health risks, especially to teenagers, outweigh the positive. Research on media and adolescent
brain development found that teens are particularly vulnerable to social influences.

Dutch Professors Crone and Konjin say we have a “neural response connected to online social
acceptance which links to the experiences of pleasure and rewards.” The regions of a teen’s brain
involved in social aspects are still maturing. Teens are still developing physically, emotionally
and mentally.

Social media is a way for people to feel connected to others. For many, it is a lifeline to
the outside world. Cancel culture is mainly about public shaming. This can be a harsh
punishment depending on the offense, if there was an offense. Any opportunity to learn from
their mistakes can be overwhelming when mistakes become public.

Cyber bullying at any age leads to feeling lonely. This loneliness may lead to anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies.

The canceler is also affected. While canceling someone may feel like social currency or
validation, the canceler runs the risk of losing the ability to show empathy and forgiveness. They
shut off everyone that behaves poorly in their eyes. The canceler’s behavior may be influenced
by jealousy and unable to see beyond their world of right and wrong.

This does not allow the offender to apologize or learn from past actions. This can potentially fuel the over-thinker and
emotions can result in revenge.

Cancel culture has the ability to become “criminal threats, invasion of privacy or driving a person to suicide” according to Steven Hassan, PhD.

Celebrities should be held accountable for the power of their words and how they
influence their audience. For instance, when a celebrity divulges a harsh breakup and treatment
from a former partner, fans will post cruel comments, including graphic death threats. Some
celebrities have turned private moments to a very public discussion in hopes to get support.
Unfortunately, some fans will blindly follow and lash out without knowing the complete story.

In recent events, Bill Maher, comedian, political commentator and television host, explains how
Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars reflects cancel culture. “It was sort of like cancel culture
encapsulated,” he continued, “because at first you saw he was laughing at the joke, right? This is
what happens a lot with cancel stuff. At first: ‘Oh, it’s funny.’And then you look around: ‘Oh
wait, I’m supposed to be offended.’And then there’s the [subsequent] overreaction. He was like
the Twitter mob come alive.”

Cancel culture will not be leaving our lives anytime soon. It is imperative that adults
speak with their children about the dangers and toxicity of cyber slander. It is important to
validate teenagers’ emotions and explain how to understand other people’s actions and opinions.

Don Grant, PhD, Director of Outpatient Services for Newport Academy, says everyone should
practice “good digital citizenship.” This suggests to think twice before posting on social media
and avoid interaction while feeling emotional. Individuals should be encouraged to learn from
previous mistakes without public scrutiny or judgments.