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Let’s Talk About “Cringe Culture”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Has anyone ever told you that something you love is “cringe”? “Cringe culture” is when people make fun of, bully, or otherwise demean others for their interests and activities that they enjoy. Generally, those who are targeted by cringe culture haven’t done anything wrong—they just enjoy things that aren’t conventionally popular. With the rise of social media, it’s so easy for people to judge others while hiding behind a mask of anonymity. 

Cringe culture affects everyone, even if we don’t realize it. For example, I grew up in a very Disney-loving household (we watched all the movies, went to Walt Disney World, etc.), which has continued into my teenage and young adult years. Whenever I meet someone new and I tell them that I love Disney, I always feel the need to preface it by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not a ‘Disney Adult’ though.” Having just recently said this to a new friend, I found myself wondering why I felt the need to validate my interests. Is it because people have made fun of me in the past? Or is it because I’m afraid that they will? Why do I fear these kinds of reactions? Perhaps it’s because I’ve watched these kinds of interactions happen online…or maybe it’s just because Disney fans are often the butt of jokes? Whatever the reason, I decided that from then on I wasn’t going to let my fear of rejection dissuade me from the things that make me happy. I love Disney, it makes me happy, and that’s all that should matter. 

I often question why people choose to make fun of the things that other people like; why “cringe culture” came to exist in the first place. Why do people choose to hurt others because they’ve found something that brings them joy? I think that those who bully others are frightened of people doing the same things to them about their interests. And thus starts a vicious cycle: people like things, people make fun of them, and then those people get made fun of for their interests. It never ends. Everyone wants to be happy, but someone decides that if they can’t be happy, no one can. People make memes and jokes about how people who like certain things look, act, behave, speak, etc., but this is all based on assumptions that, most of the time, have no real truth to them. So why do they do it in the first place?

In my opinion, “cool” is such a subjective term, yet everyone wants to be it. People will do things that are deemed interesting to some, while others think that it’s not. How can anyone be “cool” when there are no set guidelines about what it really is? For example, lots of people love rap and think it’s the best genre of music, but I can’t be bothered with it. I think that Star Wars is super awesome, but others don’t like it. That’s perfectly fine—to each their own! Everyone is going to have their own opinions about what they like, so why not respect others interests and leave them be? People liking rap doesn’t affect me in any way because I’m not the one listening to it, so why should I need to make fun of them for it?  To me, “cringe culture” is pointless and unnecessarily hurts people’s feelings. No one should be made to feel ashamed of doing what they love.

If an activity makes you feel good, there is no reason not to do it. But I’ll be honest, I wasn’t always able to think this way. I let other people’s perceptions of what’s “cool” dictate what I could or couldn’t outwardly enjoy. It’s not easy to change that way of thinking—trust me, I get it—but at the end of my life, I don’t want to regret missing out or hiding the things I enjoy just so that I could make other people more comfortable. The things that I like make me cool in my own way. I love Disney and I think that Star Wars is one of the most fascinating franchises out there. I geek out on constellations and I think that dyeing my hair is the best way to express myself. Now, you may disagree with me, but I’m so incredibly happy when I do these things. Your own happiness is the most important thing in your life, so why on earth would you let someone else make that decision for you?

Paige Kelly

Queen's U '24

Hi everyone! My name is Paige Kelly (she/her) and I'm a writer with Her Campus at Queen's. I'm an English and Classical Studies student, as well as a poet. I hope to continue writing in the future and become an archaeologist! I think that everyone has a story to tell, so if you want to share yours, message me on my instagram: @paigeursulak
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