Tom vs. Jerry. Goliath vs. David. LA Fitness vs. ...Twitter users? With the world’s screen time at an all time high, the utilization of social media platforms has proved to be vital in granting the public opinion a voice.
Jon Ronson writes in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed about the instance in which LA Fitness repudiated to cancel a couple’s gym membership after they lost their jobs and could no longer afford it. The backlash faced by the company was imminent: a crashing wave of disdained social media posts joined by online bloggers publishing scornful posts. Ronson states that, “These giants were being brought down by people who used to be powerless- bloggers, anyone with a social media account. And the weapon that was felling them was a new one: online shaming.”
Social media became a shiny new vehicle for communication and denouncement. It amplified a unanimous voice louder than a lion’s roar, strung together by the individual opinions of ordinary people.
And just like that, the seeds of “Cancel Culture” were planted into the hands of anyone with access to a screen and a keyboard.
A modern form of ostracisation from social and/or professional circles, Cancel Culture utilizes the missteps of public figures and casts them to a realm of no return. In one sense, holding people accountable for their actions is detrimental in ensuring responsibility for one's actions. But is the permanent banishment effective in harboring change? The Forbes article ‘Cancel Culture Is Only Getting Worse’ by Evan Gerstmann highlights a case in which a teacher “inadvertently” failed to identify a student by their preferred pronouns and lost their job, along with their health insurance.
The tide had turned. Now, ordinary people were being targets- and suffering greatly from it. While a rich public figure may manage to escape the maws of being ‘cancelled,’ casual citizens were being subject to mass scrutiny and facing irreconcilable consequences. Normal citizens became punching bags for other normal citizens almost instantly. The freedom to bash someone publicly, amongst a crowd and hidden from individual shame, evolved into something a lot more harmful.
This phenomena begs the question: has Cancel Culture become a modern justification of the mob mentality or does it remain a tool that grants public opinion a voice?