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Cringe Culture: What exactly is it?

We all have moments when we are reading or watching something, and we cringe at what is happening or being said. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, to cringe is to feel embarrassed or ashamed about something. When past incidents or things I have said float to the surface of my mind, I would find myself recoiling in embarrassment at those memories. While the notion of cringing is nothing new, within the recent decades, Cringe Culture has become a worldwide phenomenon. So what exactly is Cringe Culture, how does it differ from simply cringing, and is it bad?

Cringe Culture, as Urban Dictionary states, is a community of people making fun of others for their interests — interests that are not deemed cool or sometimes normal by society’s standards. For example, people who are into cosplaying are often targeted by cringe culture because of the negative stereotypes surrounding them. One of which they are labelled as immature and childish. Cringe Culture is made even worse due to the rise of social media and technology. Hiding behind their screens, these so-called keyboard warriors aggressively make fun of people for their interests. In worse case scenarios, such mocking can grow into bullying. Over time,  the stress of being made fun of constantly causes others to hide or denounce their hobbies to avoid being targeted. As one Reddit user puts it, Cringe Culture is basically conformity. It forces the person being targeted to adhere to societal norms. 

Moreover, one does not have to be attacked and singled out by said community for them to be affected by Cringe Culture. Think of a time when you immediately tried justifying your interests for the fear of being judged or mocked, whether by closed ones or even strangers. No one has said anything about your interest, but as if on instinct you feel the need to explain yourself, to protect yourself from the possible onslaught of mockery. This exact scenario illustrates how Cringe Culture is so ingrained within our society. 

It is often easy to point out and criticize Cringe Culture. However, ignoring the mockery especially when it is directed at you is difficult. It may take months or even years to no longer let such comments get to you. With that being said, it is important to note that we should never mindlessly conform to what society thinks is cool or normal. If we all conformed, all of us would be empty shells and would be nothing that makes us, us.  Furthermore, what is considered cool at the moment might not be 10 or even 5 years down the line. Instead of worrying if your interests are uncool, do things that bring a smile to your face. Why waste time fretting over such minute concerns? You only have one chance at life, so strut your style and live it the way you want!

Lee Ann Foo

Nanyang Tech '22

A Year 4 English Literature and Art History student, Lee Ann relies on black coffee as well as listening to crime podcasts to finish assignments. On a really bad day, she can drink up to 4 cups of iced black coffee.
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