Cancel Culture: A Dangerous Trend of Social Media

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Social media is revered as a revolutionary step for technology, transforming how people handle information and how they connect and collaborate with one another (Solis, 2011). Social media, essentially, is the new normal. Yet, in spite of benefits ranging from contributing trillions of dollars to the economy (Hardy, 2012) to things as mundane as social media influencers crowdsourcing survival tips from followers (Teng, 2019), social media brings its own problems. In the wrong hands, social media can be wielded as a force for chaos, disrupting society in the long run. Therefore, this paper argues that social media should be approached with extreme prudence.

Social media has a tendency to promote negative self image. For individuals, social media might induce personal insecurities that result in psychological damage to their well-being. Research has shown that frequent use of Facebook is strongly associated with poor mental health, especially in the area of self-esteem (Shakya & Christakis, 2017). This is unsurprising because social media platforms are replete with pictures that express affluent lifestyles and unrealistic physical appearances that are far out of the reach of ordinary citizens. Shakya and Christakis’s observations are further supported by news reports by major media outlets such as Forbes that confirm the negative effects of social media, ranging from social media addiction to jealousy to even delusion that one is more ‘social’ because of their quantums of online connections (Walton, 2017).

Even beyond the personal realm, social media has proven itself to be a catalyst for social disruption. For instance, social media can and has been used by anti-establishment entities looking to create chaos in the community. For example, the increased virality of fake news that is geared towards intentionally misleading readers with false information is largely due to its spread on social media platforms such as Facebook (Hern, 2019). This situation was so detrimental that Singapore even set up a comprehensive law to combat fake news (Tham, 2019), showcasing the seriousness of the consequences of malicious social media usage.

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In the wrong hands, social media’s ability to amass support in a short time can wreak disaster, with the rise of ‘cancel culture’ being one such cause for concern. A newly coined term that refers to the mass boycott of persons who have been accused of saying or doing problematic things (DeLucchi, 2018), cancel culture has led to celebrities being pressured into leaving positions or gigs due to mass netizen outrage. In the case of Singaporean celebrity Tosh Zhang, whose derogatory tweets had been resurfaced prior to Pink Dot 2019 (Tee, 2019), the actor was attacked on his social media platforms and forced to step down as an ambassador for queer event Pink Dot. Clearly, social media misuse can generate both professional and emotional damage.

More recently, a controversial advertisement, featuring Chinese actor Dennis Chew in ‘brownface’ makeup portraying minority races, incited netizens into calling it out as racist. These criticisms quickly gained traction on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and were further stoked when social media personality Preetipls released a profanity-ridden music video on YouTube in response to the advertisement. The music video accused Chinese people as being the primary cause of racism (CNA, 2019), giving rise to floods of divisive and angry responses both supporting and chastising Preetipls. Where constructive conversation around racism could have been raised, social media encouraged rifts in society instead.

In conclusion, social media platforms may be useful as a means of social networking, but can be manipulated as a tool for social disruption in the hands of those with ill intentions. With the means to exploit mob mentality, a simple statement or status can be weaponised to cause mass outrage. Furthermore, social media itself is inherently harmful to users, promoting unrealistic self-image goals and leading to mental health issues. As such, one finds that social media is the gateway to many problems that outweigh its potential benefits.


  1. CNA. (2019, August). Police investigating Preetipls’ video on controversial E-Pay ad for offensive content. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from
  2. DeLucchi, C. (2018, February). Cancel culture: too late to learn from past mistakes? The Odyssey Online. Retrieved from
  3. Hardy, Q. (2012, July). McKinsey Says Social Media Could Add $1.3 Trillion to the Economy. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  4. Hern, A. (2019, January). Older people more likely to share fake news on Facebook, study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  5. Shakya, H. B. & Christakis, N.A. (2017, April). A new, more rigorous study confirms: The more you use Facebook, the worse you feel. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from
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  7. Tee, Z. (2019, May). Tosh Zhang steps down as Pink Dot ambassador after outcry over derogatory tweets. The Straits Times. Retrieved from
  8. Teng. Y.P. (2019, May). Review: Hirzi is out of his element in ‘Stupid Man, Smart Phone’. Yahoo Singapore. Retrieved from
  9. Tham, Y. (2019, May). Parliament: fake news law passed after 2 days of debate. The Straits Times. Retrieved from
  10. Walton, A. (2017, June). 6 ways social media affects our mental health. Forbes. Retrieved from
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