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The Hierarchy of Cringe (aelkus.github.io)
202 points by longdefeat 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

The author is using "cringe" as something of a euphemism here. "Cringe" in this case is anything that a person could say that would cause other people to think badly of them, including highly offensive things, so long as the person saying it doesn't fully understand why. It doesn't have to be universally cringey, like watching someone do really bad karaoke. It might only be cringey within a small subculture.

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 usually think of "cringe" as vicarious embarrassment. You look at someone doing something that you would have felt deeply embarrassed about having done (Maybe you have done it, or something uncomfortably close to it, in the past).

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.

> Because when you think about it coldly, it's not obvious why you should care that other people are embarrassing themselves.

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 find it interesting to consider that empathetic experience can make us hostile and less altruistic, and that this is a common yet little acknowledged phenomenon. To dehumanise, denigrate or expel someone is a way to reconcile empathy felt for them, and sometimes more obvious, accessible, or apparently righteous than altruism.

It's almost as hard to describe as ASMR.

That’s why pseudo-anonymity and by extension anonymity are more important now than ever. I never speak my mind on any platform with my real name on it. It’s simply too risky. There may come a time when you could be jailed for what you wrote.

And I say stupid things with my real name attached all the time to do my small part in preventing that future. I'm not afraid to attach my name to what I believe in (and really, quite a lot I probably don't)

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.

> There may come a time when you could be jailed for what you wrote.

What kind of stuff are your writing (about)?

Anything can qualify since you don't get to decide that nor know what group of lunatics, demagogs, or extremists could get power. They could decide that not having over 50% of your content dedicated to their cause is treason. This isn't just some high minded hypothetical - people were been killed in China's Cultural Revolution because their objective innocous facts were interpetted as too "western" or some sort of coded subversion. They have a dubious successor in terms of willfully ignorant persecution in Boko Haram.

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.

Many things we recognize as terrible now were recognized as okay years ago. People then were blind to it. I assume I have similar blindnesses (e.g. In some of my social circles, using blindness as a metaphor is considered ableist). I know my own opinions have shifted in recent years from things I used to consider cringey PC bullshit to "oh they were right on this one." I remember some jokes I thought were funny as a kid (ones I even repeated to friends) which I think are disgustingly offensive now.

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.

Jokes being discustingly offensive is the point. Its a joke ffs. Taboo or inapproprite subects or viewpoints is one of the hallmarks of comedy. Unless the joke teller does so specifically to disparage people, Lighten up.

I'm sorry that I seem to have offended you. Lighten up.

This is the kind of question that would compel the grandparent to feel the way they do. Although, to me, it may be a bit of hyperbole. Or maybe some not completely unjustified paranoia.

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.

> Although, to me, it may be a bit of hyperbole. Or maybe some not completely unjustified paranoia.

"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 agree that cringe is relative. To me, static-typing proponents usually emit terribly cringy memes. By failing to think categorically, they fail to see that static typing and dynamic typing are two different facets of the same raw computational structures.

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.

Regardless of the validity of the argument this should be down-voted as old-school trolling where you totally derail a thread by politely starting a massive unrelated argument.

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.

I agree with your assessment of the article (in terms of what it was trying to express), and I agree that what you have described does occur on the Internet.

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.

That's an excellent tl;dr which ought to be clearly comprehensible to HN users.

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.

> For example, there are paired exercises where people troll each other as hard as they can... But it's a safe space, with trained moderators around, in case people lose it.

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.

It was the Six Day, offered by Landmark Education, formerly est. At a beautiful retreat center in the Catskills. There was also a ropes course, which involved repelling down a 50 foot cliff, a transverse across a 20 foot gap, and a long zip line (maybe as much as a mile, but I could be wrong).

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.


The Rich Hickey reference saved it for me.

Is it just me, or was there no actual hierarchy discussed? I was expecting a pyramid of cringe, or at least a list of varying levels of cringe. Instead I got a lengthy discussion about how he doesn't like that people stereotype other people on the Internet (as if that is unique to the Internet). Low quality and poorly named post in my opinion (nice looking blog though).

I'm not sure if you're serious but I like how meta that was.

Cringe humor is extremely popular within the meme culture and that's not surprising. Memes are so incredibly fascinating from whatever angle you want to analyze them. It is so bizarre that this concept of producing and composing images that capture/represent a feeling, a historic moment, a situation, a thought, etc, can create this massive meta-culture with its own rules and social implications.

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.

> What was the creative outlet of regular people before the meme culture?

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.

> 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.

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!

I think it's a way that people found in order to participate in a collective endeavor of creativity over the internet. Many people like brainstorming sessions, where everything is allowed and almost no idea is actively invalidated by others. It's a group experience that's usually rare (constrained to school projects and some company meetings), and socially awkward people might not enjoy them in a live setting. I think Memes are kinda like those brainstorming sessions, but they are async, introverts can enjoy them, and they go on ad finitum.

The most accurate way to model memes is as a form of life that inhabits the medium of human collective consciousness. They are born, spread, and mutate, but they also adapt their environment to serve them.

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.

Memes are just comedy plus digital multimedia.

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.

memes are interwoven with the language of the youth/modern internet so much so that brands even legacy designer fashion adopt memes/intentionally use promo that will get memed

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.

Meme's are just inside jokes shared with a larger group (be it sub communities on the internet, or basically the entire internet). The creative outlet for regular people was the same, just on a smaller scale.

I think the topic of cringe is a interesting one that the internet really amplifies but I can't for the life of me figure out what he's trying to say in this post

I think what he’s saying is that cringe humour appeals mostly to those who know that they are pretty cringeworthy themselves.

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.

I think that's the wrong angle to take.

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.

Did you know that judging is the other way to achieve the same end, feeling better about yourself while reducing other's stature?

It's really hard to examine such blind spots in oneself. I fail at it often as well. Human nature of you will.

that's it? How did this get upvoted so high in HN?

I take it as: People dunk on other people on the internet for doing/saying dumb stuff. But everyone pretty much seems to follow a pattern most of the time, anyway. (And you don't feel all that 'special' if all you do/say could be reliably reproduced by a simple flowchart). You dunk on others to feel better about yourself; although really you could just as well be dunked on for what you do/say, too.

The whole article could be cringe copypasta

> In a later post, I will look at a different side of this problem – how Internet subcultures are obsessed with evading negative social judgment and why this obsession can go too far.

I'm looking forward to that.

It's another reason to use multiple well-isolated personas.

One of the main reasons I stopped posting on Facebook and scrubbed my IG presence. I feel like this has gotten pretty commonplace, actually.

Not long after I discovered Usenet and email lists, I decided that anonymous coward was the way to go. And more so after hanging out on various web forums.

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.

See https://people.well.com/user/declan/toto/

I'd quote some, but it's definitely cringeworthy.

You really should worry about the FBI.

> Being blocked by someone you never heard of is a common experience online, as is the recognition that they likely have no idea that they are blocking you.

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?

There are groups which tend to attract heavy abuse. Disadvantaged minorities and celebrities tend to share in this, with some interesting intersections. Since blocking one annoying user at a time is itself tedious and something of a denial of service attack, common blocklists get created, and shared.

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.

There was an effort to do something like what you’re describing some years back. I think I heard about a volunteer effort to build something like this around the time of gamergate.

Block Together. A list blocking 100,000 people belonging to group X sometimes sweeps up people outside the group for the crime of eg following a friend who is part of said group. There is also intentional sabotage in adding someone innocent that a maintainer dislikes to such lists.

Blocklists are common in certain corners of twitter (leftist twitter for example)

I was thinking shadowbanning.

Man I absolutely love this theme he is using. Took a while to find the post but here is the info on the current design. https://aelkus.github.io/site/2019/09/10/design-sources

Honestly the design is so nice it makes me want to get around to finishing setting up a blog

I find the font hard to read... I feel like fixed-width fonts are better suited for coding or terminals. The width of the columns are also a bit larger than recommended for web typography (whatever that's worth to you). At full width, the blog shows about 120 characters per line. I've seen the optimal line length suggested as 50-80 characters. Compare...

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.

It being a different cut by a different cloth is a big draw for me if I'm honest (I am getting tired of reading image heavy medium blogs), and I really dig the overall aesthetic it gives off. I personally like the wider text, I wish more sites did it, although I would agree that maybe 80-100 chars per line would be more readable overall after seeing that comparison instead of the full 120. I also like how minimal the header and footers are, instead of being greeted by a full 1920x1080 image and having to scroll a whole page to the content it's right there ready for me.

Not that I think every blog should adapt to this style specifically, but I really appreciate it being what it is myself.

His page though is heavy for what it is, he could have shaved down several KB getting rid of bootstrap css and replacing jquery with simple inline JavaScript. I hope he does.

Or remove javascript entirely. It's a damn block of text with zero interactive content. Why would you ever need javasccript for that?

It's a jekyll site automatically built with github pages. I personally can absolutely see the trade off of not having to manage and build your own website just to post some thoughts of yours, especially with the modern internet where a few kb of javascript is really probably not going to make too much of a difference to the majority of your audience.

I built my github pages blog with hugo and it still contains no javascript.

But I also did some digging around, I don't think any of these pages actually use javascript at all. The two references at the bottom are the only two usages of script anywhere

I have to say while subreddits like /r/cringe bother me in some ways I’m thankful for them because after growing up homeschooled and relatively isolated there where a lot of subtle social ideas I really didn’t understand. I think without them I probably would be a lot less pleasant to be around.

I think many internet communities can be understood by figuring out their in-group/out-group standards. 4chan's /g/ board will make fun of "normies" that can't assemble a computer, and /v/ will make fun of normies that aren't willing to embrace something as fun as videogames. Progressive subreddits will make fun of easily-debunkable political misinformation and the kinds of people that peddle it, and sciencey subreddits will call out various other kinds of misinformation and its peddlers. In some places, the out-group is "SJWs", and in other places, the out-group is the kind of person that spends too much time complaining about "SJWs". There's an in-group/out-group dynamic being used in all of these situations that can feel fun to be in on. (Not trying to say all of these divisions are equally arbitrary. Many people have their own reasons for preferring specific setups rather than others, but someone in any of these setups will automatically get a feel-good bonus from the tribal part of their mind.)

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 you're dead-on. The cringe analysis is mostly subsumed by in-group/out-group analysis.

> (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.

Unlike certain other far past politicians, his image is impeccably crafted, not grown. (Easy, look into his past. He's not a man of an image he is projecting. People don't change this much.)

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 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.

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.

I guess I'm getting old. I read the article and the comment here, and have no idea what you're all talking about.

Cringe is being used as a noun, here. If something makes you feel embarrassed, or makes others embarrassed on your behalf, that's cringe. The reasons behind that embarrassment is entirely dependent on the cultural context of the observer.

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.

The author is using a trick from philosophy - taking an existing word (in this case: cringe) and redefining it in a new expansive way somewhat related to its original meaning. Whereas it originally might mean "an involuntary reaction to something embarrassing" the author seems to intend for it to mean "embarrassing, self unaware, shallow, vapid" with the added comprehension that cringe is a rank-able thing - someone is always more "cringe" then you.

The author is also a New America Fellow, so they must use a trick from any center-right academic fellow to publish center-right articles to be picked by center-right journals every now and then (and then be misquoted as munition to "based" arguments on fringe social media)

It sounds like you're bringing partisan lean into something fundamentally non-partisan. The original piece is somewhat left of center (though still firmly moderate imo) though my comment applies to many different and diverse scholars from very different partisan leans and is a pedagogical practice in nature.

Yep, me neither. The best I can tell is that it's a new children's term. If a kid says "that's cringe", it means "I don't like that".

Feels like OP spends significant time in some sorts of Twitter bubble ("Being blocked by someone you never heard of is a common experience online" ?) and either overestimates how prevalent his situation is or the post was not intended for a general audience.


given that he/she is on HN, my assumption would be that they are a Gen-X'er at the earliest. Gen-X'ers saw and built the dawn of the internet/web so they still hold life outside the web in high regard and while we "get" a lot of the tech life stuff, we find participation to not be as important as younger generations. Then there is just stuff we don't see the point in, not that it's not important, rather it's just lost in generation translation.

I'm sorry, I'm not from USA, so these US-centric tribal designations do not mean anything to me. I'm in my late 30s, if it helps.

lat 30's would place you as a gen-x'er IIRC gen-X ran from 61 to 81.



This is not even a correct use of the meme, you are now cringe.

it's not just you. i am, i think, "that" generation and i have no idea what this is all about. the word "cringe" is overused, we should "cancel" it.

And I'm just incredibly awed at how meta this comment section can get...

One of the most interesting things I have read for a while. It puts the finger on a lot of perhaps unconscious thoughts about experiences I have had on line. Why even partake in online communities, is a good question. It seems to lead to pain and self-loathing.

Can't comment on the relevance of "cringe" culture. But I like the site design very much. Font family is called "Inconsolata" ;)


The topic is covered more rigorously in the book, "Yuck! The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust" (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/yuck) When you look at the policing of discourse, you can see cringe as exploiting the much deeper sentiment of disgust, where there is a bunch of prior art discussing it.

when your brain gets to this point, just log off and go look at a tree or something. this is serious overexposure to twitter.

This is all over Reddit as well unfortunately. I don't spend much time at all on Twitter, but I recognized what the author was talking about as I'm on Reddit.

"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 would argue that the sort of thing the author is describing is fairly pervasive (and growing rapidly) in society, and may be having effects to a far underappreciated degree. Rather than logging off and ignoring it, I think we need more out of the box thinking like this, from as many seemingly bizarre perspectives as possible, not less.

Well it exists in a evolutionary process. What people were cringing about in the early 2000s are now no longer cringworthy. I think this is part of what Baudrillard terms the simulacrum. What was cringeworthy thousands of years ago? Was there a concept or cringe? These are interesting questions.

Can someone tell me what the Mishima quotation has to do with the content of the article.

I've started to think that we, as individual humans, are far more of a statistical phenomenon than we would like.

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).

Based article.

Based and redpilled.

Using a monospaced font for prose, and putting Mishima anywhere near a "cringe hierarchy" are the most cringe-worthy things I've seen today. And boy howdy have I seen some cringe!

> If you say “that furry is a degenerate” you will be accused of discrimination. Don’t slut-shame, don’t kink-shame, don’t gatekeep.

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.

You're saying that there are higher rates of homosexuality among furries or am I misinterpreting that? If so, what makes you think so?

Well for one it is observed that open bisexuality or pansexuality seems to be far more common among the subculture than the general population. Occasionally it is joked that bisexuality is the norm. Homophobia generally includes any same sex attraction.

Furries tend to be a lot more open-minded about the entire queer spectrum.

So do people in the arts but that does not mean all or a significant percentage of artist are homosexual. It just means that group tends to attract a more liberal mindset on sexuality. There was a period when the arts where looked on as deviant.

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