Cringe culture is prevalent on the internet and its varied communities. What makes something “cringe” varies, but its main feature is causing “second-hand embarrassment” in the viewer.
Cringe isn’t exactly new. In fact, it has a lot in common with “cultural cringe,” which is a social inferiority complex proposed in 1894. This phenomenon argues that some people may dismiss their own culture as “cringe and inferior” and disassociate themselves from it.
However, cringe culture didn’t become widespread on the internet until two communities sprung up on Reddit in 2012 – r/cringe and r/cringepics. Redditor drumcowski led the movement after watching a video about teenage furries.
Cringe culture has long been viewed as toxic and as an excuse for people to harass teenagers, children, and socially awkward people for having quirks or getting over excited about fandoms. According to drumcowski, r/cringe was created as a place for empathy since everyone has done something embarrassing at one point. Sadly, it’s become a toxic den.
One Twitter user recently sparked a debate about cringe culture and how people should stop using it to mask their own insecurities:
"Cringe culture" is stupid and its time to stop shaming literal kids and teens for unironically enjoying things we were scared to admit we liked at the same age
— ✧ * ⋆ 。noa*✧ * 。 (@flareonpuppy) October 18, 2017
@flareonpuppy’s Tweet gained a lot of reactions, mostly from people supporting the idea that cringe culture is destructive.
you that look down on them for it, but they don't care.
Why waste your energy on being so judgemental? What makes you think you're better?
— Aruki 🔜 AWU & DenFur! 🏳️🌈🐾 (@__Aruki) October 18, 2017
Yes, just let people enjoy things pic.twitter.com/5wp3PJ08OS
— Janiek (@JaniekHH) October 18, 2017
…strangers somehow makes them rebellious, tough, edgy, etc.
— dreamingnoctis (@jbarkerdesigns) October 18, 2017
God forbid people enjoy things.
— Nobody (@A_Silent_Child) October 18, 2017
I think a ton of us need to understand the internet is mostly anonymous by nature and when "crigny" art are posted its probably by a kid.
— Daniel Burns (@Dan_Burns_) October 18, 2017
One of the cardinal sins of the internet is Liking A Thing.
— Ｄｒｉｎｋ Ｓｐａｃｅｄａｄ Ｃｏｌａ (@SuperSpacedad) October 18, 2017
Can we just stop being jerks to people online? Is that so hard to ask.
— HappyKittyShop💀 (@HappyKittyShop5) October 18, 2017
honestly cringe culture as an idea led to me being a rly unhappy child even on the internet i was always worried about "mary sues" n shit
— boo bunny (@bunnysugars) October 18, 2017
Yeah, I always see things 'cringe compilations' of things I like, making people feel bad about things they enjoy..
— spoopy bear (@WellItsBear) October 18, 2017
i find this is what most of my adulthood is. Refinding things i loved when i was younger without the internalized shame about it.
— Will-ow (@SegaCDR) October 18, 2017
Yes!! Never apologize for what you like!
— Russ Ariel (@HijoDeOso) October 18, 2017
"Cringe" media does two things: brings unwanted attention to those featured in comps and creates more unoriginal and bland content on YT.
— Arcanix (@Nebula_Arcanix) October 18, 2017
I agree with that some of the things that we do are weird but why stop it? As long as we aren't hurting anyone there's nothing wrong with it
— Kio (@Kio_Bat) October 18, 2017
I think it's cringey BECAUSE we can relate and remember how we acted. I can't defend anyone who takes it beyond that tho. Don't shame them
— Edgar Gray (@eddiegee1096) October 18, 2017
The crux of the argument is that people have no business shaming others for being over-zealous or for “giving real fans a bad name.” It’s a self-centered view that doesn’t bring anything of value to a fandom.
Of course, you can use cringe to mock certain abstract ideas, like the obsession with seasonal waifus. But mocking specific individuals breeds an unwanted label of intolerance with a community.