Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture encapsulates the acts of withholding support or endorsement from individuals or institutions on social media due to a collective disagreement or disapproval of their actions, beliefs, or behaviors.

What is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture encompasses various approaches but typically carries a pejorative connotation among social media users. It involves a process comprising a 'cancel target'—the individual, entity, organization, or brand being called out—and a 'cancel discourse' that propagates the cancellation message (Ng, 2022).

Canceling practices are executed through active and passive means. Active practices involve explicit actions on social media platforms, including:

  • Social Media Posts: Explicit statements shared on social platforms.
  • Hashtag Usage: Employing hashtags to amplify the canceling message.

Passive practices encompass actions such as:

  • Unfollowing: Ceasing to follow or subscribe to the cancel target's social media presence.
  • Boycotting: Refraining from purchasing merchandise or engaging with products associated with the cancel target. This includes actions like:
  • Ceasing to Consume Media: Stop consuming music, films, or shows associated with the cancel target.


Cancel culture originated within queer communities of color on Twitter, where 'canceling' implied a personal choice to cease support or engagement with an individual. This term, initially from Black Twitter, gradually extended beyond its origins. However, its adoption by wider communities, particularly among journalists, came with associations of ostracism fear and a broader societal concern about censorship (Clark, 2015). Now, it is a phenomenon open to exploration from various angles, for example, by unveiling the intricate power dynamics embedded within cultural, political, and social hierarchies. These dynamics might shape the interpretation of social media messages and their classification as cancelable posts. Moreover, patterns such as race, class, or nationality shed light on how the interpretation of a message changes in accordance with the person writing it (Clark, 2020).

Recently, cancel culture has taken on a new role—as a weapon wielded to attack others. Norris (2023) reflects on the widespread adoption of this term, highlighting its continual reshaping. What once was a means of holding individuals or entities accountable has now morphed into a tool employed within collective partisan rhetoric. In social movements, the goal has shifted from accountability to exclusion, targeting individuals or groups deemed as cancel targets.


Clark M. D. (2015). Black twitter: Building connection through cultural conversation. In Rambukkana N. (Ed.), Hashtag publics: The power and politics of discursive networks (pp. 205–217). Peter Lang Press.

Clark, M. (2020). “DRAG THEM: A brief etymology of so-called ‘cancel culture.’” Communication and the Public, 5(3-4), 88-92.

Ng, E. (2022). “Introduction”. In: Cancel Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Norris, P. (2023). “Cancel Culture: Myth or Reality?” Political Studies, 71(1), 145-174.