Life Style

“You are Cancelled!”: Impact of Cancel Culture on Mental Health


Did you know that in today’s digital age, a person can be ‘cancelled’ as easily as you might cancel a subscription or an online order?

Cancel culture” is one of many ways that the digital era has developed to ensure organizations, their leaders, and people are held accountable for their actions. Although typically rooted in amplifying justice and driving social change, cancelling culture often can leave negative mental health consequences on the targets and the community. This article examines how Cancel Culture intersects with mental health, emphasizing its potential emotional and psychological impact.

The roots of Cancel Culture trace back to marginalized communities using it to fight systemic injustices and hold powerful figures accountable. For these communities, boycotting was a form of reclaiming power and voice in a society where justice was not readily available through conventional ways.

Cancel Culture: Boycotting 2.0

“Cancel culture” aka Boycotting 2.0 became trending during the mid-2010s. With the rise of social media, it paved the way for individuals to voice their opinions and gain collective action quickly. It typically involves calling out perceived harmful behaviour, often resulting in social or professional consequences for the accused. Cancel Culture can be used as a tool for accountability to empower marginalized voices. It becomes a social forum to debate sensitive topics and discriminations that can otherwise not be discussed.

It has also led to a few important social changes like in the case of the #MeToo movement. It brings like-minded people together to show collective support against unethical behaviour. Though its history lies in efforts to address social injustices, the practice can sometimes blow into harsh and endless public shaming when handled loosely.

The Canceled: How does it feel mentally?

  • Shame and Trauma: Public shaming can have a tremendous effect on the mental health of the cancelled. Losing one’s professional and personal identity due to exposure to their perceived wrongdoing can be traumatic. Studies have also shown a positive association between shame and self-harm.
  • Social Isolation and Anxiety: Often cancelling leads to bullying, which indeed can make one feel ostracized. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness turn into a source of anxiety, and depression.
  • Self-worth and Identity: Negative comments, public shaming and bullying can all have a toll on one’s self-worth. Loss of a person’s identity degrades self-efficacy and altogether their well-being.

The Cancelers: How does it affect you mentally?

  • Divisions and Polarization: Cancel Culture leads to creating constant opposing communities. This polarization forces its followers to conform to the group norms and the fear of being ostracized.
  • Digital Vigilance and Burnout: Ongoing exposure to negative content, and hypervigilance increases stress. The thought that they will be targeted next if they do not participate in the cancelling act contributes to burnout.
  • Demoralising and Speech Freedom: Cancel Culture creates an environment where people are apprehensive to speak their opinions freely. The effect of Cancel Culture goes beyond the intended target, affecting communities and families, thus concerning the fairness of the act.
  • Striking Balance: Though Cancel Culture has its pros and cons, we must know how to strike a balance. Given below are a few points to ponder around Cancel Culture.
  • Repair and Compassion: One way of balancing out the negative effects of cancelling culture is to bring in restorative justice. Repairing the harm and learning from mistakes instead of shaming nurtures a compassionate community.
  • Recognise Biases: Upskilling on critical thinking and recognising cognitive biases helps evaluate information better. This increases the quality of dialogues exchanged and reduces unethical online behaviour.
  • Empathy and Support: Offering mental health support to those affected by Cancel Culture is important. Required counselling, and psychoeducation help with damage control. Empathy and support will have positive impacts on the overall environment.

Cancel Culture: The Future

Cancel Culture has impacted bringing about social changes, yet has its pitfalls. Therefore, it brings us to a point where there is a need for an evolved culture around justice and accountability for a better future. Taking into consideration the mental health aspects of both the Canceled and Canceller. Let’s create a more accommodating and ethical approach.

There is also a growing support for the ‘Call-in’ culture instead of the ‘Call-out’ culture. In the Call-in culture, individuals deal with harmful online behaviour constructively & privately before calling it out to public shaming. Keeping in mind the origin and the roots of Cancel Culture helps create a more just and empathetic outlook. It also should not take away freedom of speech from individuals. The aim has to be to create a culture that encourages positive learning, mutual growth and overall mental well-being.

Read More: How to Avoid Herd Mentality and Think Independently

Thus, by thoughtfully steering through the balanced approach one can explore the positive impacts of Cancel Culture and dismiss the negative effects. This provides a chance to create an inclusive and safe society.

References +
  1. Linsey Toler (2022). The Mental Health Effects of Cancel Culture. Verywell Mind
  2. Niamh Delmar (2023). The mental health effects of cancel culture. RTE
  3. What Are The Mental Health Effects of Cancel Culture? Refocus 
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