The word cringe is everywhere and dominating the conversations on the internet. But is the cringe culture all fun and games or does it reflect on a deeper issue? Let’s look right into it.
If you are an average internet user like me, you’ve probably come across the word cringe before. It is safe to say that the word has been overused on social media in all contexts and while this type of content is our guilty pleasure, there is so much more to consider and acknowledge when it comes to cringe.
What is Cringe?
If you are unfamiliar with the word cringe, it is associated with the physical or mental reaction to something that is humiliating or embarrassing. In simpler words, it is the second-hand embarrassment one gets that gives the netizens an opportunity and an excuse to make fun of another fellow user.
This word, in the modern era of social media is being used over and over again to express embarrassment. Regardless of how mild or awful the feeling is, it has managed to now become a staple in the pop culture.
The word cringe itself is very versatile. You can cringe at something so hard that it will make you burst into laughter and the best part is there are so many different genres of cringe that almost everyone can enjoy this form of humor. But when the fine line between fun and bullying is not acknowledged, it leads to detrimental effects on one’s mental health.
Relevance of Cringe
Taylor Swift, recounting lessons from her long musical career while accepting an honorary doctorate degree from New York University said, “Learn to live alongside cringe,” and “No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively… Being publicly humiliated over and over again at a young age was excruciatingly painful but it forced me to devalue the ridiculous notion of minute by minute, ever-fluctuating social relevance and likability.”
At this point you are probably thinking, if an incredible and talented artist like Swift is termed cringy for doing something she loves and is good at, then what about the billions of common people on the internet? And how does the term cringe affect them? So, let’s dive deep and understand how cringe culture can actually hamper someone’s mental health.
The Lighter Side of Cringe
Relatable Forms of Cringe
- Like everyone else, I admittedly cringe at an enormous number of things. Remember when you replay your own voice message to yourself and the way you sound really starts to annoy you?
- Or when adults use their child voice?
- Or when someone constantly mispronounces a commonly used word?
- And how can we forget bloggers subtly trying to sell a product through their lifestyle?
- When someone wears their pants down to their thighs and you can see the boxers? And the overuse of cheesy pickup lines?
Cringe on TikTok
- TikTok, the undefeated cringe content generator has so many of them. The ‘6 second challenge’ where people just blink at the screen for six minutes straight, I wonder what made them think this was a ‘challenge’.
- The alpha men brigade on TikTok spreading toxic masculinity through their videos.
- And the most awful of them all? Wasting food for clout and likes. What is even crazier is how these videos have millions of views and one of such TikTok account has 28.1 million followers. All I can think of is the kind of privilege these users have.
- You would want to skip this if you are eating right now because it is going to be nasty. Did you know there are people who dump food in their toilet and eat right out of it – all for a viral video?
It is not just the common people. Celebrities also do things that are so cringy, you will start giggling and cannot stop feeling embarrassed for them.
- Remember when Kim K gave some advice to women and asked us to work harder which led to criticism? (You know what she said, “Get your fucking ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days. You have to surround yourself with people that want to work.”)
- Machine Gun Kelly’s introduction to Megan Fox was, “I am weed,” Fox explained when talking to British GQ cover story. Let’s also not forget their poetic Instagram captions that has Amanda Lovelace quacking.
The Darker Side
The more mainstream genre of cringe is indeed funny. As social animals, we depend on the norms set by others. But when someone pursues something they enjoy or is remotely considered ‘weird’ they are tagged cringy and treated as an outcast. As the inherent nature of humans, we always tend to go overboard and cross the lines that separates light hearted fun and mockery. This is where it becomes a problem and a toxic place for everyone.
To get a better understanding of what I am referring to, here are a few examples:
Bullying of Users
- Nyannyancosplay is a cosplayer who is known for creating lip dub videos on TikTok and in 2018, she gained much popularity online for a video in which she lip syncs ‘hit or miss’ portion of the diss track “Mia Khalifa” by iLOVEFRIDAY. This TikTok slowly became a trend, she got a lot of fame and has over 2.5m recreations. But, with her popularity came bullying and unwelcome speculation about her gender identity, which forced her to disable the comments on her original video.
- Society has an inclination towards considering children cringeworthy. Jojo Siwa, a singer, dancer and YouTuber was bullied for being herself, having a younger fanbase and wearing colorful clothes.
- Reddit even has a subreddit named “r/cringe” with over 1.3 million members who discuss images and videos that they deem cringy. However, it is hard to tell where the cringe ends, and bullying begins.
The Real Cringe
- If you go to YouTube and type ‘fake tics TikTok compilation’, you will find endless videos of people faking Tourette syndrome for clout and followers. People continue to do so even after being called out by people and creators who actually have the condition.
- This list would be incomplete without mentioning YouTuber Trisha Paytas who in 2016 made a coming-out video in which they claimed to identify as a chicken nugget. “I don’t think I should be considered crazy for identifying as such,” they added. Many took offense to their 2019 post in which they claimed to be transgender.
Impact of Cringe Culture
Cringe is often used to target LGBTQ+ folks, fat people, people of colour and anyone else who doesn’t quite fit into society. The impact of such acts is beyond what is imaginable. Not only does the cringe culture curb self-expression and creativity but also forces them to return back into their bubble which eventually leads to lack of confidence and communication skills in general.
It also leads to lack of individuality and following trends blindly instead of one’s own liking. Needless to say, alienating someone will affect their mental wellbeing and trigger anxiety related responses.
Will Cringe Culture Ever Decline?
I strongly believe that with the growing number of people online talking about cringe culture and letting people be themselves and enjoy little things even if it is deemed ‘immature’ by the society, people will grow to be more compassionate and understanding. Cyberbullying grossly reflects on the society’s hate towards minority and underserved popularity.
So, the next time you see a video of atypical individuals being themselves, comment something nice and uplift them. If you find it cringy, ask yourself why? Is it really harmful or is it just you not able to comprehend someone doing something differently? And let’s be real, we all have habits that are considered weird or cringy but that shouldn’t stop us from doing it anyways. Instead of finding a million ways to humiliate someone, let’s find one way to make their day and show a little bit of acceptance.
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