Cancel Culture: How Social Media Has Become Its Leading Cause


Julianna Romeo, Arts & Entertainment Writer

Kevin Hart, canceled. Sia, canceled. Dr. Suess, canceled. J.K. Rowling, canceled.The list goes on and on. Cancel culture: the term used to describe the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered offensive. 

While you may think cancel culture is a new concept, Dr. Jill McCorkel begs to differ. She tells the New York Post, “Societies have punished people for behaving outside of perceived social norms for centuries…and this (cancel culture) is just another variation.” 

Gen Z has reinvented what it means to be canceled with the new use of cancel culture through social media. With the help of social media, canceling someone has become much easier as someone new is getting canceled everyday, like celebrities, brands, television shows and movies, or even kids at school. While some argue that social media had little influence on cancel culture, I believe social media remains the leading factor for why cancel culture is so influential in today’s society. 

Social media has had a big impact on cancel culture as it has allowed people to be held accountable for their actions. The Rolling Stones performed at the Altamont Music Festival in 1969, an event that was supposed to be fun, but ended up forever changing the lives of the victims and their families. Four innocent people died during the performance. One victim, Meredith Hunter, was stabbed just 20 feet from the stage. Many others were injured and a number of cars were stolen and abandoned. The Rolling Stones continued and finished their performance despite what was happening in the crowd. Many think the motorcycle club Hells Angels are to blame for the chaos. They are an outlaw motorcycle gang associated with drug dealing, trafficking stolen goods, and prositution. This event was featured in the Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter but none of the Stones have ever publicly spoken about it. The Rolling Stones have been able to continue their career and are going on their 60 years tour in the US very soon.  Over fifty years later and this event has received barely any media coverage, especially compared to a similar event that occurred on November 5th, 2021 at the Astroworld Festival during Travis Scott’s performance. 

What occurred during this festival was a crowd surge that left many injured and 10 dead. The youngest victim at astroworld was nine year old Ezra Blount. Along with him, ages of victims also include 14, 16, 21, 22, and 27. More than 300 people were injured and hospitalized, many going into cardiac arrest.  This ended in tragedy due to the poorly organized event. There was an anticipated crowd of 70,000 but only 70 medics were employed and security was not checking tickets at the entry so people were able to sneak in. Scott claimed to not have realized what was going on even though many people were shouting and trying to get his attention as well as security’s attention. He has since kept out of the public eye, for example, he was removed from headlining the Coachella 2022 festival, the Travis Scott Fortnite skin was deleted from the game, and even his presence on social media has been minimal. 

Very similar events happened to The Stones and Scott, yet why did one face bigger repercussions than the other? Immediately following the concert, #canceltravisscott started trending on every social media platform thinkable: Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram and Snapchat.  It is evident that one main thing remains responsible for the significant differences in the treatments of these two artists: social media. 

On the other hand, there are many examples in history where social media has no relevance to the “cancellation” of someone. In 1995, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, he had an affair with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was impeached because of this affair. Rather than the public equally blaming Clinton and Lewinsky for what had happened, the public and the media rather decided to blame only Lewinsky. People only associate and still associate her name with a sex scandal. Clinton’s name is associated with the President of the United States, an honorary title.The media called Lewinsky a slut, homewrecker, anit-feminist, etc. A Time article titled “The Shaming of Monica: Why We Owe Her an Apology,” states “I was 16, perched with a group of friends in the hallway of my high school, devouring the contents of the Starr report like a trashy romance novel… And yet we did know one thing: we didn’t like that raunchy Lewinsky girl. What kind of woman flashes her thong at the President, anyway?” An ordinary group of teenage girls was even calling Lewinsky a slut, showing the extent the media shamed her. 

Lewinsky was torn apart in the public eye while Clinton faced half of that. She was only 22, while he was 48; he was the president while she was just an intern. There was a power dynamic that made Clinton the more powerful one yet he was still not blamed for what had happened. While Clinton did face repercussions, he was able to come back while Lewinsky was not and still faces repercussions. However, since he was the president it should have been the opposite. Bill Clinton was able to abuse his power and got Lewinsky ‘canceled.’ 

It seemed as though everyone in America was against her, she was made a fool of. All this happened without the help of social media. Now, social media has definitely been able to shed light on the event in present times but at the time of the scandal, social media did not even exist. Society as whole collectively decided to hate Lewinsky, which in modern terms would be known as “cancel culture.”

While this example may seem to add to the argument that social media had no influence on this particular event, it is also easily arguable that mass media was the social media of this time. Both are able to spread information quickly to the public. It was Clinton’s power that swayed the media to side with him, a tactic used by people with larger platforms on social media today. Mass media and social media have the same amount of power, and both could end one’s career in a matter of seconds. All it took was one article expressing shame on Lewinsky and everyone followed. 

Everywhere you look, someone new is getting canceled. Cancel culture has now even extended to ordinary kids getting canceled, not just people in the public eye. It has come to the point that people are abusing what it means to be canceled, a harmful influence created by social media. Rather than canceling those for commiting crimes, people now rather choose to cancel those for much smaller actions. I don’t beleive there is a way to change social media’s effect on cancel culture as cancel culture is too normalized in today’s society. One of the main uses of social media is to share your opinions. If we did not allow people to do this, a large majority of users would stop using social media altogether. The only way to really change the impact would be to ‘cancel’ social media. How has Social Media Affected Cancel Culture?

Some celebrities that have been canceled in the past year: 

Armie Hammer: Texts were leaked online by a woman whom he had a relationship with which revealed fetishes he may have for cannibalism, and rape.
Ellen Degeneres: Rumors of a toxic workplace and sexual misconduct were leaked which led to the cancelation of her show.
DaBaby: He went on a homophobic rant at the Rolling Loud Festival and got dropped from music festivals across the US.
David Dobrik: A member of the Vlog Squad sexually assalted someone during a bit that Dorbik wanted to do for one of his vlogs. Although you can’t see anything in the video, it was released on youtube but taken down once the victim came forward. He got even more heat when he released his apology video as he did not take responsibility for his actions. Many people also came out accusing Dobrik of being a bully and creating a toxic work environment.
James Charles: Three minors came forward and accused him of grooming them, one of them being 15 years old. Charles denied these rumors and said he was unaware of their age. Two months later he finally released a video apologizing.