You’re #CANCELLED: Can ‘cancelled culture’ end influencers’ careers?

Laura Lee’s apology video, now with more than 10 million views, has gathered an avalanche of hates and hate comments.

By JESSICA MAGDALENA

Social media influencers are being “cancelled” by their followers because of controversial comments they’ve made online.

YouTube beauty vlogger Laura Lee lost 500,000 followers after some fat-shaming and racists tweets from 2012 resurfaced.

Many #Cancellation Party videos made by YouTube drama channels have appeared online.

She issued a tearful public apology video after losing major brand deals, but it was swamped by negative comments, with her former fans says she was faking remorse and playing the victim.

“Cancelled culture” involves fans boycotting certain sites and even sending hateful messages and creating internet memes. Fan bases often collaboratively decide that the influencer should be cancelled.

A survey by Sprout Social found that 70 per cent of social media consumers surveyed called out brands and influencers to raise awareness of social issues.

Lee’s big loss came soon after she celebrated reaching five million subscribers. Major beauty brands Ulta and Boxycharm cut ties with the YouTuber and said in separate statements that Lee’s remarks did not align with their morals. 

Lee celebrated her five million subscriber milestone, which has since dropped to below 4.5 million.

In her apology video, she said her family received death threats, and attributed her racist remarks to miseducation during her Southern upbringing

Former Laura Lee fan William Suwandri said the controversy showed how there could be a dark side to our favourite influencers.

William Suwandri was a fan of Laura Lee before her racist past went viral. Picture by Jessica Magdalena.

“It’s so upsetting to see that the people who are supposed to use their power for good decide to use it to make such offensive remarks,” he said.

“It does not matter what age you posted certain things; what is on the internet stays forever.”                                                                          

Bernice Loh, a doctoral candidate in Monash University’s sociology department, said the “cancelled” phenomenon was caused by the “bandwagon effect” – where the rate of adopting or ditching trends increasesd the more they have already been done so by others.

 Ms Loh said online forums made it very easy for people to express opinions and hate, especially if all their friends were doing so already.

“It becomes almost a form of citizenship in the sense that if you do not partake in it, you’ll probably run the risk of being stigmatised,” she said.

Fans this year also tried to “cancel” YouTubers Logan Paul and Adam Grandmaison, also known as Adam 22, for their problematic behaviour online. 

Mainstream media criticised Paul for filming and mocking a suicide victim, while Grandmaison’s body-shaming remarks regarding plus-size model Tess Holliday turned his fans against him.

The beauty vlogger has lost more than 500k followers after her racism scandal.

YouTuber John Kuckian, with nearly 400,000 subscribers, said “cancelled culture” was damaging for influencers’ careers.

“The problem with social media today is that it becomes very hard for people to move on,” he said. 

“Instead of just unfollowing an influencer we don’t like, people will always feel the need to hate and ridicule them.”

Despite being “cancelled” many times, Paul and Grandmaison are regaining followers and producing content online.

Kuckian said Lee’s controversy most likely would not end her career, but it would take a very long time for her to regain her audience’s trust. 

Monash University media and communication senior lecturer Dr Akane Kanai said there were certain boundaries to online hate.

“I believe that this cancelled culture has opened up a form of unproductive debate,” she said. 

Dr Kanai said death threats and other forms of extreme online harassment prevented any form of resolution.