The internet is a powerful tool that is used for education, entertainment, making money, and a variety of other things. It can be used in both beneficial ways and not-so-beneficial ways and one of those not-so-beneficial uses is the concept of ‘cancel culture’.
Cancel culture is something that has come into use in cerca 2016. This phenomenon has become even more popular throughout the years where it exploded in 2019.
According to Merriem Webster, cancel cutler has to do with removing your support for a public figure due to their behaviours or opinions. Generally it also includes publicly denouncing the individual being cancelled.
Diving into the cancel culture topic, I will be discussing the more “light hearted” side of cancel culture. Generally speaking there are two types of cancel culture. The first type is connected to the #metoo movement which can be considered a little more heavy more serious side to cancel culture. The more “light hearted” side is connected to cancelling online personalities because they tweeted something racist 6 years ago or were exposed by someone on YouTube.
So cancel culture is extremely popular on Twitter. Normally how the process goes is someone finds something racist, transphobic, sexist, etc. that a public figure had posted online a few years ago. That individual then might blast the public figure online which might attract media outlets to pick up the story making it a discussion topic and more media outlets would turn to the story adding more gas to the fire. Eventually people will catch up and generally hashtags will trend for the figure to be cancelled and they will lose their supporters.
It’s truly a brutally cut throat process that usually lasts a couple of weeks and can significantly change people’s lives within a matter of days.
Demi Lovato has been the latest victim of cancel culture when she was allegedly exposed for having an alleged fake instagram account where she was insulting Selena Gomez and it was an entire story. You can probably find more information about it on YouTube if you’re interested in the drama.
We, however; are not interested in the drama rather in analyzing the psychology behind cancel culture.
There are several theories that I think are linked to cancel culture ideology.
One of my first theories falls on automatic processing. Automatic processing is exactly what it sounds like; thinking but on autopilot. Automatic processing is usually found in our daily lives like when driving. The more experience we have in driving the more automatic the whole process becomes where sometimes we completely zone out from the whole process.
How automatic processing is involved in cancel culture is how readily people are in accepting new information without really questioning it.
Fake news is related to this phenomenon where people just accept the information presented to them trusting that the information is true and reliable.
Automatic processing comes into play when people see a trending hashtag on twitter calling for the cancellation of an influencer for example, and instead of doing some background research and looking more into depth about the topic, they automatically assume that all the information is tried and tested and join the mob.
Automatic processing is very dangerous because in my opinion it turns people into zombies. Instead of being on high alert, they become dependent on other people’s opinions and follow what they have to say.
Automatic processing can also come into play when someone trusts a youtuber or a media site blindly without checking for references. This is dangerous.
Groupthink / mob mentality
Moving onto the next theory: groupthink. I think groupthink is such a dangerous phenomenon that happens within society.
Groupthink takes place when people become focused on group cohesiveness where other options are no longer an option.
An example of this is when a group is discussing a project and they come across a problem they must solve. If the group leader proposes a solution, other team members might be inclined to agree with the leader. Then, more people will also agree with the majority. Soon, everyone is agreeing with the first solution solely because the leader proposed it and everyone went along with it.
In groupthink situations, alternate routes are not considered. Try thinking back to a situation where the whole group agreed to something and you tried to change their minds or even just suggerent different ideas. It usually doesn’t work out too well.
Groupthink is such a monumental force in cancel culture. Once someone accuses someone of something, it turns into a snowball effect.
In cancel culture, groupthink can be seen in ‘phase 2’ of the process where the media outlets release the story about the accused.
People usually look up to those media outlets whether they be gossip websites, drama YouTube channels or celebrity magazines.
Once these influential platforms put something out there, many people will take it to heart and agree with what they say either because they do agree or because they’re participating in groupthink seeing as to how everyone around them is agreeing too.
This all leads to mob mentality where people begin to behave in certain ways because of their peers and their surroundings rather than using logic and rational thinking. Also called jumping on the bandwagon.
The last theory I have is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for and weigh information that confirms one’s preconceived conceptions more heavily than the information that goes against them.
Confirmation bias can be very easily seen in our everyday lives, but why go the easy route when we can have some fun.
Ted Bundy was a murderer. We all know this, yet his mother Louise Bundy refused to believe it. In an interview she insisted he was innocent then mentioned how he was the “best son in the world” and how thoughtful and fond of his siblings he was.
Here Louise was tapping into the confirmation bias within her subconscious. Instead of seeing the pile of evidence presented against her son, she insisted on remembering how great her was as the son she knew.
Mrs. Bundy had preconceived conceptions and she wanted to stick to them and weighed the memories more heavily than the evidence against her son.
Now, how does confirmation bias connect to cancel culture?
Usually when people find out a controversial topic on the internet they might look into finding more information about it. Now, instead of putting neutral keywords in the search bar they might put negative keywords associated with the public figure.
In addition, they might only watch videos or read articles that portray the person being scrutinized in a negative light instead of looking at the whole situation from a neutral perspective.
Everyone wants the “tea”.
An additional side theory that could be linked to someone being actually cancelled is belief perseverance. It takes place when someone’s beliefs persist even when the original basis for the belief has already been discredited.
This can often be seen when for example an influencer loses their followers and the never truly recover when comparing their before and after views. This can happen even if the beliefs have already been disproven.
Some people are just very rigid and want to believe what they want to believe.
Cancel culture is definitely a new concept within the online community. The whole idea behind cancel culture is for the individual being accused to lose their social standing and be stripped from their power.
How efficient cancel culture actually is however is another issue. Some people believe in its power while some point to people like “Tana Mogue”, “James Charles”, and “Jefree Star” who are all YouTube celebrities who have gone through the process of being cancelled yet are still thriving on YouTube after passing through a short low period in their career.
However some look to “Harvey Weinstein” who was sentenced to jail due to the #metoo movement and the cancel culture rallying behind the movement.
It’s definitely an interesting topic and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about it.