We know that on social media the most important thing is to capture the attention of one’s followers. There are predictable success stories – celebrities, politicians, business leaders. Then there are the surprises, the people who come from nowhere and suddenly have instant fame ‘on soc’. But what happens if one of these people makes a very public mistake, either in what they say or what they do? Cancel culture is a form of boycott. Followers remove their attention from the offending person and deprive them of a following. The most recent example of this was the attempt to remove Michael Jackson from the world’s playlist.
In many instances this has economic consequences as well as social ones. It works well on celebrities. It is less effective on politicians and business leaders who have other audiences, other platforms on which to seek validation. But for those who survive solely on their social media following, cancel culture is the kiss of death. The judgement that someone deserves this treatment is made somewhat haphazardly on shifting criteria. There is no recourse. Cancel culture can seem like an attempt to glorify a digital lynch mob.