The Cultural History of Cringe and How the Internet Made Everything Awkward
There is a phase in everyone’s life, not so long ago, but a period that feels spiky in memory, and in retrospect inspires only violent revulsion. The body instinctively convulses and convulses in shame for violating arbitrary social mores. These were really violations. the decades-old Facebook post that liberally used capitalization and punctuation to pollute our language (HapPY BirthDaY, BeStiE!!!); a text-turned-essay sent to an ex that will be instantly regretted five minutes later; acid wash jeans that used to be wardrobe staples but are now best left in memory; Video of the actor praying to Audrey Hepburn’s portrait before walking the red carpet at Cannes.
One word, five letters, inexplicable feeling. to shrink. A pursed upper lip, a wrinkled nose, a heavy grin, a side-to-side shake of the head. Attacking grammar, excessive displays of human emotion, fashion to die for, any behavior that ignores social norms.
Yet there is a twist in the tale of a fractured culture. Taylor Swift urged people to “embrace” and learn to “live with it” during her graduation speech, among other advice on growing up. [cringe]”. Backlash will always happen, so be wild, be free, and embrace the rebellious and the fun in equal measure.
The story of the cringe is the story of a Russian doll, very much like you and me. We cover that crunch with shame, then with comedy, then with transgression so gross it can’t be done, and now the biggest thing is the accepted one. Underneath it all, there’s still that turmoil, that sense of public shame, but how we grow around it.
The plot twists on the cultural graph and it will have a fancy zig-zag shape. it started as a way to show mild embarrassment and shame, inspired a comedy genre, became a serious social transgression, and now a way to bring back the “uncool” and the “victimless.”
It the history of hoarseness is based on social subjugation. What culminated in Internet culture originated in Old English; cringan “to fall, to yield in battle, to give way, to bend, to shrink” was the descriptive word. The Kringan sometime in the 16th century it began to be stifled, when it introduced a sense of fear and shame in “bowing” or “crouching”. Finally, by the 19th century, the meaning had established itself; to cringe meant “to shrink back from shame, embarrassment, or fear.”
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Evolutionary history suggests that cringing is born out of fear of social rejection, similar in intensity to physical pain. People literally cringe with shame also because “our ability to feel vicariously shame is affected by our ability to empathize with others,” psychology professor Rowland Miller. told Vox. People are shaken for reasons beyond dishonor. it can also be empathy to experience that feeling in real time. Back then, Cringe was about secondary shame and compassion, the human emotions that define everything and anything we do. Cringe is at heart as much an instinct as it is a conditioned physical response to public embarrassment.
Then came the rise of the “creepy comedy” that really added humor to the cheesy. It’s the 2000s when Larry David Seinfeld fame continued to create Curb your excitement – a saga of awkward misadventures capitalizing on a brand that was floundering. The office fueled this trend when squealing meant both laughing and feeling disgust at the second-hand embarrassment of the people who were the unwitting subject of the joke. Michael Scott’s failures with women and his partners add c, r, i, n, g, e to the word cringe.
Watching train wrecks in fictional worlds turned into a desire to mock them in real life. This coincided with a new public space that made humiliation a currency for achieving social capital. “With a new form of public space, the virtual, comes the navigation of new social norms and thus new ways of humiliation. In 2012, Michael Dombkowski started Reddit’s first dedicated forum, which moderated a repository of content that was “difficult to watch,” “embarrassing,” or “impossible to sit through.” Sample: A Microsoft Store video dancing to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” for much, much longer than it needed to. “I’ve always seen these videos as an exercise in empathy. it was always like that Oh, I could totally see myself doing that, or just feels like one of those nightmares when you’re at school without pants or something. It just fills you with dread for that person,” he said said.
Our instinct to squirm reinforces new norms of online social behavior on a bodily level.” wrote Caleb Madison for The Atlantic. Social media has truly become a prism that can be turned into a rainbow of meanings. it was an adjective (such a cringe dress), a verb (I’m cringing at his song), a noun (stop writing cringe), and even a neuter. Did Pete Davidson tattoo the names of Kim Kardashian’s children on his face? Stir! A mental image of Shrek take a photo, titled “yes. this goes into my pore collection, instantly tans itself.
At this moment, an important question should be asked. Is the fight an objective fact? What may be disgusting to you may just be old things said and done in jest to others. So, is it an inexplicable feeling to squirm? Yes and no; no, because it has to do with the feeling of fear refusing social exclusion according to refusing anything that the culture automatically considered “bad”. This is a coping mechanism that can respond to self-hatred, insecurity, and memories of self-failure.
“Where we used to cringe because we understood, now we cringe because we can’t believe it.” – Caitlin Tiffany argued In the Atlantic.
Cringe was then used against people for laughs the time instead of them with them. Taylor’s call to embrace cringe takes us back to the healthy, compassionate source of cringe, rather than one driven by contempt.
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If we shy away from social appearances today, it is because the feeling of shame and embarrassment existed long before. And the feeling will surpass the moments of the Internet and the confusion of the second hand. Maybe one day we’ll shrink from “crooking,” and we should. If cringe is about shame, it’s also an ode to exhilaration and experience, to finding cheekiness in chaos and realizing the ephemeral nature of it all.
“I think [cringe content] It’s a controlled way to deal with this really deep fear.” said Melissa Dahl, senior editor and author of The Cut Discomfort theory. “It’s ridiculous to talk about shame in 2020 when such terrible things are happening. But, like, there’s nothing scarier than being singled out and laughed out of a group.”
This is the property of the emotion of disgust, for there are innumerable ways of humiliation and innumerable occasions of regret. The inevitability of rebound pain gives reason to argue that cramping is a familiar sensation. I look at Taylor who said. “No matter how hard you try to avoid squatting, you’ll look back on your life and squat backwards. Nausea is inevitable throughout life. Even the term cringe may one day be considered cracked. I promise you, you’re probably doing or wearing something right now that you’ll look back on later and think was rebellious and fun. You can’t avoid it, so don’t try to do it.”
Imagine watching and analyzing events in real time, all while reviewing your own misfortunes and criticizing them for the same. This self-censorship removes any semblance of empathy. “…it can happen to me, or it has happened.
–harder to achieve because the viewer and subject positions are so unequal. The cramping goes away,” Tiffany added. Social norms, when translated online, inspire unbridled humiliation, sometimes quiet, sometimes brutal. It’s as if they’re trying to push someone back into a cage, away from the “brutal” aspects of their nature.
Kring achieved social relevance first through ridicule and then again through scorn. Cringe defies luxury, a social order built on conformity and the status quo.
The more mainstream the cringe genre becomes, the easier it is to be influenced by it. It’s no surprise that Cringe TikTok is a growing canon in its own right. Things go viral because everyone hates it, but here’s the appeal. the creators know this and end up taking advantage of the chaos knowledge. “I think for the most part, when people think of the word ‘disgusting,’ they think of some crazy kid dressing up and LARPing or something. It’s not scary to me. That’s someone having a great time. If someone’s making fun of it, they’re just jealous,” says Curtis Conner, a famous YouTuber who makes videos on Cringe TikTok. Mocking people who try, who come out presentable and otherwise, is an act of imposing servitude and demanding homogeneity from a social group, all begging unrealistic but familiar questions.
We regain laughter and the ability to mock social mores, and most of all ourselves. When there is compassion in pity, laughter becomes easier. Throughout 2012, Taylor Swift dressed like a 1950s housewife. “But you know what? I was having fun,” he says. “Trends and phases are fun. It’s fun to look back and laugh. And while we’re on the subject of things that make us cringe when we really shouldn’t, I’d like to say that I’m a big advocate of not hiding your enthusiasm for things.”