As an influencer, much of what you do is about being open and relatable and putting yourself out there—which also means risking making some people unhappy with your content.
Enter “cancel culture,” an online cultural phenomenon characterized by calling out Internet personalities and celebrities for real or perceived problematic behavior. The consequences of cancel culture have been very real; for many influencers at the height of their careers, being canceled meant a massive loss in followers and income from brand partnerships.
But nowadays, being “canceled” might as well be any other word in our lexicon. It’s become as mundane as getting Starbucks before work or doing the “ordering what the person in front of me orders” trend on YouTube. Being canceled used to carry weight for influencers, but that’s not the case anymore. Collectively, we are canceling “cancel culture.”
There are a variety of reasons—and the big-brain combination of all of those reasons—for why cancel culture is now essentially canceling itself out. The first being a normal human reaction: when anything starts to happen repeatedly, we get used to it. We’re simply less shocked by it now that it has recurred in many instances, with many people. What was once a notable event is now quotidian in contemporary Internet culture. Next, let’s pile on the creator boom and the influencer economy. There are no longer just a few YouTubers to watch for great content. It’s 2023. There’s a creator for everything. Every creator has something different to offer, content niches are out-niched, the news cycle moves faster than fast, and we, as viewers, are just grasping for the next big thing before the last big thing is even over. The growing number of creators has ultimately contributed to the overall dilution of cancel culture in the grand scheme of things. In short, cancel culture has seen better days… it’s truly experiencing a glow-down.
Creators are now learning to cope with the rapid-fire news cycle and shorter audience attention spans. There’s more content online now than ever, leading to larger space and viewer appetite to make a comeback after a cancellation because being canceled—like, REALLY canceled—is so 2010s. In today’s fast-paced social media world, we see more apology videos than ever—and they mean less than they ever have. Take YouTuber Colleen Ballinger’s ukulele apology video, for example. After several people came forward accusing her of misconduct toward underage fans, Ballinger uploaded an "apology video" so unserious it almost caused her to be canceled again.
Being canceled has become so trivial in today’s online culture that there’s essentially a three-step plan for any creator who wants to make a come back: 1) an apology video acknowledging mistakes (creators tend to get creative here), 2) a period of time “away from the internet” or “getting educated,” and 3) plain ol’ effort. Even Ballinger might try to make a comeback after those (very) serious allegations. Hell, she might even revive her YouTube alter ego, Miranda Sings, that propelled her to fame years ago.
While cancellation will always be part of an influencer’s online history, a facet of their persona, skilled creators can almost always finagle their way back from being canceled with enough time and effort. But there’s no escaping the possibility, perhaps the inevitability, of cancellation if you’re an Internet personality because someone somewhere will know something about what you did 6 or 16 years ago… so plan accordingly.
Vivian Zhou is a Junior Creative Strategist at Fohr. She hasn’t been canceled… yet. Email her at email@example.com.