• Samah Syed

Cancel Culture: A More Parasocial Perspective

Cancel culture is not a rare occurrence in today's social media society. In fact, I become an eyewitness to the mass cancelling almost every day. If you have been void of these interactions, cancel culture in theory, is essentially the mass ‘cancelling’ as a way of showing disapproval and exerting social pressure on a certain celebrity or influencer.

Cancel culture was initially a crux for people to stand up against anything deemed wrong by teenagers in the world. Racism, cultural appropriation, you name it, people will voice out their criticism. Oftentimes people would engage in cancel culture to be politically correct or ‘woke’. While the positive intentions behind the approach are blatantly obvious, the implications are quite the contrary. Cancel culture began evolving into the toxic form of ostracism it is today. It evolved beyond just educating or holding people accountable, becoming just swarms of hate towards an individual, or in other words cyberbullying with the underlying defence of social correcting. The discussion of what this can do to one’s mental health is one that has been rightfully brought up, there is a justified reason it has acquired the label ‘toxic’. The entire basis of what cancel culture is has become removing the idea of making mistakes. At a majority, those who get cancelled, whether or not they apologise, are held in this limelight because of social media's unrealistic expectations, where every person should have the utmost education on anything seen as offensive or wrong. Presumably, this would cause tens of thousands or even more, opinions being sent towards someone at a time and for an average person, this can be detrimental and overwhelming.

The effects of this are predictable. Fear, anxiety and depression would not be uncommon for an influencer in this position, and while this might be a common occurrence for influencers it also opens the door to something not as openly discussed, the onlookers. For many individuals, cancel culture unknowingly creates the same environment. Watching someone else get herded from an outsider's perspective can be stressful and upsetting, and more often than not, this is the case with fans.

Watching a friend get bullied would elicit worry from any normal individual. You’d feel like you’re obligated to put yourself in their shoes if you think it is unjust. This is usually the same case with fans. Seeing someone they have placed upon this pedestal suddenly be hit with thousands upon thousands of words of criticism can be overwhelming. The panic they’d begin to feel would stem from a place of attachment towards these influencers where people unknowingly give themselves fearful or even anger-driven emotions. With parasocial relationships being such common occurrences today, and especially among teenagers, you could imagine how this could affect one's mental being.

It’s important to know where to draw the line when a fan sees themselves being placed into this situation and knowing when to remove themselves from it. A situation that may seem uncontrollable, but only because it simply is. The internet has become a place to voice out your opinions, the good and the bad. Cancel culture is similar in this sense, whether justified or not. It might be best to simply, as your ‘fav’ may say, take a break.

Writer: Samah Syed

Illustration: Image taken from Pinterest

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