Say you're used to discussing programming languages. You and your fellows have developed a well-understood notion of why static typing is better than dynamic typing. Then along comes some fool who has watched too many Rich Hickey videos who wants to tell you that types are just guard rails and nobody would navigate by bouncing off the guard rails when they could just drive to their destination. This is cringey because you've heard this argument before, the interloper ought to know that you've heard this before and taken it into account, and it's clear that they're just repeating some argument that they've heard somewhere else.
One could have a "stupid things dynamic typers say" bingo-card, with the guard rail argument on it. One could regard the dynamic typer as a kind of NPC bot, popping up to spout the scripted phrases of his kind of person. And it's cringey to watch someone do that.
This phenomenon is what the OP is trying to describe, except that on Twitter the subject matter is unlikely to be static vs. dynamic types, but something political which covers much larger categories of people.
The fact that so many commenters here are baffled by this suggests that the phenomenon, or at least this intuitive understanding of it, is not quite as widespread as the OP (and I!) might assume, though.
I think it's a kind of involuntary empathy in a strictly mechanical sense - feeling as if you were that person when you look at them. Because when you think about it coldly, it's not obvious why you should care that other people are embarrassing themselves.
So it's not empathy in the ethical sense. On the contrary, people who talk about "cringe" are often fiercely angry at the people making them feel this way.
It has to do with enforcing and confining oneself to acceptable social behavior, and reinforcing those boundaries for oneself.
As you say, it's involuntary, or instinctive, like many social behaviors.
> On the contrary, people who talk about "cringe" are often fiercely angry at the people making them feel this way.
Aside from blaming them for the discomfort, this is also part of the enforcement aspect.
I also think people are fooling themselves if they think they can really hide their identity behind a screen name.
Staying silent and hiding in the shadows enables that kind of future and can be seen as a pretty good cause of those sorts of things happening around the world throughout history.
What kind of stuff are your writing (about)?
There is the mocked concept of Roko's Basilisk as a new Age Pascal's Wager - than a hypothetical future AI singularity who punishes you for not leading to its existence. This is effectively the same sort of irrational punishment for what was literally unknowable - but worse as there are myraid competing ones.
The scary part is that with such a strong digital record, people recorded as having now-bad opinions are being held to account all over the place. Sometimes they go viral and lose context, making them seem truly evil. They should be fired from whatever their job is today and shunned, apparently. Or elected prime minister of Canada. It's unpredictable.
If we observe an example where we a step back from the severity of judicial repercussions of a post or comment and look at it socially. We could use the "cancel culture" ideology; where you could write something naively and be ambushed by a group that thinks your thoughts are wrong.
I am also assuming Grandparent is in a western country. There are other parts of the world where you could have contributed to an online community and later have whatever subject it was about outlawed. Thus exemplifying gp's idea.
And on a side note I felt cringey writing my response. Whatever that means.
"There may come a time when you could be jailed for what you wrote" certainly sounds hyperbolic, but then go back 20 years and imagine who then would have predicted the massive, high stakes (career and industry revenue wise) controversy over the manager of an NBA team making a comment about the freedom of Hong Kong.
Or, who could have foreseen such an interesting combination of situations such as a comedian turned Democratic senator being forced to resign by colleagues over excessive freshness with ~7 or so women, combined with many of the same people's odd disinterest in a shadowy figure who is allegedly involved in fairly significant trafficking young girls to the rich and famous, who then proceeds to commit suicide under similarly odd circumstances.
As they say, not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.
I used to consider those discussions as bingo cards, examining each trite argument and carefully constructing responses that would dissemble them. My goal was to try to deprogram folks, to help them realize that there is a world beyond Haskell. I gave up after a uniquely unpleasant experience: A prominent Haskeller gave an extended analogy in public chat about statically-typed and dynamically-typed people. In this analogy, statically-typed people were more reliable, predictable, punctual, thrifty, and just generally better people. And of course they favored statically-typed languages.
Cringe leeds to sneer. It's obvious that the NPCs don't understand what they're saying; they spout the words, but the meanings aren't really there and so they cannot reason about their own slogans. This is contemptible, and so one tribe learns to sneer at another tribe, taking their slogans and twisting them into insults.
I think that sneer leads to sarcasm by default. Nobody can really tell whether somebody is a genuine member of a tribe, or a sneering troll highlighting the cringe of being genuine. Therefore we say two-faced slogans, like "X sucks, use X" and "thanks, I hate it" and "I am so tired of X" to indicate that we dually are members and also sneerers. We are in on our own joke of being serious about things that nobody ought to be serious about.
It's also missing a point that the original post and a lot of the internet seems to miss. Just enumerating an argument isn't enough to dismiss it, eg. "guard rails" "mansplaining", "squirrel". Just because an argument can be labelled doesn't mean it's invalid, the "guard rail" label could be applied to a nuanced argument about the cost of first order logic as a proof system jammed into all of your code (the original Hickey argument), which seems like it's worthy of not being arrogantly dismissed given the popularity of the language. Sometimes "mansplaining" is appropriate (a female might be wrong/ignorant and a male might seek to correct them), and sometimes "squirrel" is someone pointing out genuine hypocrisy (eg. the genuine hypocrisy of attacking Trumps corruption whilst ignoring blatant establishment corruption, not an argument you can totally dismiss).
Ironically this is logic itself getting meme-ified and losing it's semantic value so that the original concept (squirrel = (often) tu ququoe fallacy) is being applied incorrectly and stripped of nuance and unrerstanding.
But I disagree that this phenomenon that you (and the article writer) have described, is known as "cringe". When people talk about "cringeposting" or saying "that was so cringe", they mean the vicarious embarrassment, the feeling you get when you feel so bad for somebody that it's almost funny, when you realise that somebody is being a try-hard, and doesn't know how badly they're failing, etc.
What you have described is just commonly known as "stereotyping". People do it all the time in real life, and all the time online. Person x spouts an opinion that people in group y think everybody in group x has. That isn't cringe. Everybody has biases and stereotypes. If I see somebody from x political group saying something I've heard 1000x before, my first thought would probably be "here goes x grouper again". I would't think they are cringeposting or that they are a cringey, just that they are another classic example of some stereotype that I have developed over many years of reading articles, posts and comments by people like that.
So basically it's cringey to see stereotyped behavior. Because the fools are behaving just like bots. And they're easy to trigger and manipulate. So it becomes a game, in many communities.
But then, thoughtful introspection reveals how much of ones own behavior is predictably scripted.
That's a major component of Landmark Education's work. To help you see the scripting in your behavior. And to learn how to catch it before it get's expressed.
It's not like it's ever going away. Because it's part of being human. But you can develop a level of consciousness above all that machinery.
For example, there are paired exercises where people troll each other as hard as they can. Nothing is out of bounds. So you get to see what triggers you, and how you respond to it. But it's a safe space, with trained moderators around, in case people lose it.
Back in the day, before we got so fragile, there were exercises where participants faced each other wearing just bathing suits. Maybe 200 people in a large room, in lines about 20 people in each line. And the lines got shuffled, so everyone got to spend maybe 10 minutes silently "being with" everyone else.
This was during a retreat. After 2-3 days of ~15 hours per day in sessions, healthy meals, and no coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. And only 4-6 hours sleep, with morning exercises and running. I guess that you'd call it "boot camp" today.
Just curious, but where and why are you undergoing that kind of training? I've never heard of those tactics being used outside of cult-like environments or some kind of abusive therapy. Military boot camp, maybe? It sounds extreme and unethical.
Prerequisites included a complete physical, and assessment by a professional trainer. As I recall, you had to be able to run a mile in decent time.
They videotaped each participant at the beginning, making a five minute presentation about themself. And then, near the end. The final session was devoted to watching clips from each participant's presentations. The changes were profound.
It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Along with hundreds of LSD trips, of course. And spending a few years as an itinerant hippie LSD dealer. And a few years of Aikido. And earning a PhD.
It was probably a lot like basic military training. But without the bits about killing people.
The New Warrior training included some of that. And it also included one on one interactions in a ring, which included unrestricted verbal abuse, which could escalate to wrestling. But no hitting, joint locks, throwing, etc.
As I said, I doubt that it would be doable today. Given how emotionally fragile many have become. And how out of shape. Not to mention how litigious.
But I do emphasize that these were all adults who participated voluntarily, with full disclosure. And you could leave, at any time. As I recall, you got your money back if you left during the first day or two.
Social media wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for the meme culture. Just think about it. How many companies exist because of these memes that we share. Reddit, Imgur, Giphy, Gfycat, 9Gag, Kapwing, the hundreds of thousands of meme accounts on Instagram... All these companies and organized entities exist because of memes. That is so surreal.
What was the creative outlet of regular people before the meme culture? It feels so massive and unhinged that it almost makes me think that we didn't have anything equivalent before.
Still memes; albeit in the form of jokes, idioms, quotations, fables, etc. The novelty here is the tools that now allow us to create pictorial content and share it ad infinitum for virtually free.
There are many illustrations/postcards/woodcarvings from Victorian England/Edo japan/etc that are all but memes in names (they even had the same disproportionate representation of cats!), they just couldn’t be shared as broadly and instantaneously.
I was just thinking about this yesterday.
In the 80s and 90s it was popular to parrot moments from movies. Quoting them, mimicking them, or simply pointing at someone and drawing a parallel. In the early/mid 90s my friends and I used to make our own WAV files and we would even photoshop pictures every now and then.
Political memes are kind of like modern-day political cartoons in that they distill key points down into a very relatable and shareable form.
Human nature is human nature - I think it's always been around just using different tools and distribution methods. Kind of cool actually!
Meme's have existed as long as we have, but the internet is a like a mass-transit system for them. Memes are able to spread farther and faster than ever before and find their disparate niches to thrive in.
I think the rise of cringe and its encompassing genre of incidental humour is not due to the Internet / meme culture, but of recording generally. TV shows like "America's funniest home videos" and "You've been framed" feature a lot of cringe humour (much of it physical); film outtakes are cringe. Its existence depends on incidental recording. Social media produces so much cringe because it's always recording.
i dont know if this is good as the trend goes on seeing how something cannot really exist on the internet unless its been shitposted to a considerable level. the discussions about tiktok on hn and the rate content is being consumed/shaping our brains and the ways we communicate.
While everyone can enjoy an occasional piece of cringe humour, the sort of person who spends a lot of time on /r/cringe is the sort of person that others would find embarrassing, working hard to reassure themselves that others are worse off than they.
Kinda like how /r/fatpeoplehate was mostly filled with secretly fat people laughing at the really fat people.
People who obsess over cringe are people who desperately need to find someone to feel better about. It's a symptom of low self esteem and self-loathing, amplified by internet-powered vicious cycles.
That MAY mean that that person is also "cringey" by someone's reckoning, but that framing traps you in the same framework of self-loathing.
This is an extremely toxic mindset, and it is something that you should always work hard to break yourself out of.
It's really hard to examine such blind spots in oneself. I fail at it often as well. Human nature of you will.
I'm looking forward to that.
It's another reason to use multiple well-isolated personas.
We didn't call it "social media" back then, but people did get doxed occasionally. And online anger did sometimes spill over into meatspace.
I did not want my professional reputation to be damaged because of something (even something truly cringeworthy) that I'd posted somewhere. And then there was the FBI investigation of Jim Bell, which involved subpoenas to several cypherpunks contributors.
There was also an investigation of some truly crazy itinerant folksinger, who had posted some of the most amazing rants that I've ever read.
Edit: It was Carl Edward Johnson aka Toto aka TruthMonger.
I'd quote some, but it's definitely cringeworthy.
What is this talking about? I've never experienced that (I don't think).
It sounds like people share adblock-style blocklists of social media accounts?
When these affect out-groups, the impacts are relatively benign. Celbs' lists, given the share/rebroadcast nature of several social media platforms (notably Twitter), mean that getting on one of these lists is akin to being erased from the platform -- if your posts are invisible to a large fraction of the many-followers set, you lose amplification.
This can be an appropriate and intended consequence (don't be an annoying git if you rely on others spreading your message(s)), or not (adding personal enemies to inappropriate lists, inadvertant additions to lists). A problem with shared blacklists generally.
I witnessed some of this and resulting fallout in a Mastodon incident which had carried over from Twitter, August of 2018.
Effective and fair abuse and harassment countermeasures are challenging.
Honestly the design is so nice it makes me want to get around to finishing setting up a blog
Default (1160px): https://i.imgur.com/6I33kYB.png
Constrained (800px): https://i.imgur.com/lcb6Qd6.png
It definitely tracks better to me at a reduced width, but your mileage may vary.
What is it that appeals to you the most about the blog's design? Admittedly it looks different and lots of sites look the same now. Someone like me would probably push to make it look more like Medium.
Not that I think every blog should adapt to this style specifically, but I really appreciate it being what it is myself.
Cringe humor is a quick way to bring up the in-group/out-group dynamic or to temporarily spawn a new instance of the dynamic.
Places with predefined in-group/out-group dynamics are attractive to people not just so people can experience being in an in-group, but also because as long as you're not part of the out-group, you're unlikely to be randomly targeted as an example of cringe/out-group. (I think this part explains a lot of the popularity of Trump despite scandals: Some of his fans know or will acknowledge he's doing bad things, but it's just considered much less important than the belief that Trump will never punch in the direction of his fans but the other side will. -- Hopefully a connection to politics doesn't feel too out of place here. In-group/out-group dynamics seem like something common to human psychology that we should expect to see in many places.)
> (I think this part explains a lot of the popularity of Trump despite scandals: Some of his fans know or will acknowledge he's doing bad things, but it's just considered much less important than the belief that Trump will never punch in the direction of his fans but the other side will. -- Hopefully a connection to politics doesn't feel too out of place here. In-group/out-group dynamics seem like something common to human psychology that we should expect to see in many places.)
I don't think this is accurate. I think that Trump's popularity is mostly due to his "realness". He's the exact opposite of a career politician. He doesn't talk like a lawyer and, despite being rich, he has an everyman quality to him. He's incredibly unpretentious.
Trump reminds me of something from Notes from a Dead House. Dostoevsky describes a prison warden who was beloved by the inmates due to his homespun character despite the fact that he took pleasure in beating them:
> There are men who are far from being kind, and who have yet the talent of making themselves popular; they do not despise the people who are beneath their rule. That, I think, is the cause of this popularity. They do not give themselves lordly airs; they have no feeling of "caste;" they have a certain odour of the people; they are men of birth, and the people at once sniff it. They will do anything for such men; they will gladly change the mildest and most humane man for a very severe chief, if the latter possesses this sort of odour, and especially if the man is also genial in his way. Oh! then he is beyond price.
> Lieutenant Smekaloff, as I have said, ordered sometimes very severe punishments. But he seemed to inflict them in such a way, that the prisoners felt no rancour against him. On the contrary, they recalled his whipping affairs with laughter; he did not punish frequently, for he had no artistic imagination.
That's Trump as far as I'm concerned.
He is a very good actor, specifically a comedian, and there's a species of logic behind his actions, not actual raw or even lightly filtered emotions as far as I can tell, but gives a great appearance he does so. (He does not seem to be a sociopath, but it's not a requirement.)
That said, by acting consistently, one does become their mask to a degree.
I think both your theories about Trump's popularity are right, as are many, many other theories. It's unfortunate that the mind seems to have a tendency toward aggressively forming rapid conclusions rather than logical analysis and curiosity driven brainstorming. Granted, we're the product of crude evolutionary processes, but the lack of activity in this realm even among the academic community seems far less impressive than one would predict considering what we are capable of in other fields.
Maybe the author is onto something here.
Say you find yourself in Victorian culture, and you use the shrimp fork to pit an olive: cringe! Some observers will laugh behind their hands: cringe! Others will gossip about you later, others will gossip about the loss of decorum of those who laughed.
Or maybe you're out in the back country with some cultured locals, who offer you coffee in the morning. You say "yes please, a bone-dry triple venti cappuccino with whipped cream and salted caramel!" Cringe! With a hearty guffaw, they pour off a cup from the percolator and drop a couple of elk berries to fancy it up a bit. In a bold attempt to save face, you act casual and drink it down. Cringe! Now they'll be telling your tale for years to come.
"Cringe" really doesn't require or merit this level of philosophical analysis. Since Reddit banned subreddits built around mocking/shaming minority groups and overweight people, "cringe" became its replacement.
It's a way to signal to other people whose lives revolved around abusing people online, that something is a target to pile on against. A 20-second video of someone playing rap music from a BT speaker in the subway? "Cringe", aka "let me use this to make a broad generalization about the lifestyle and career prospects of this person".
I don't know how old the average Reddit user who posts on those subs are, but I sincerely hope they grow out of it once they get out a bit more and meet people not exactly like themselves.
I predict that at some point, once the mathematics have been distilled out from quantum mechanics, and extended to n-dimensional "particles", that humans behavior will be predicted by some sort of a n-dimensional wave equation (with values of n in the thousands or hundreds of thousands).
More specifically, because of the demographics of the furry fandom, most people who hate furries do so because it lets them be homophobic without the social consequences of being clearly homophobic.