When does cringe culture go too far?

Charr Davenport, Reporter

Many people find high school to be a trying time. It can also be a place where students learn to be ashamed of themselves. Teenagers try new things, discover new music, wear different clothes, find things that make themselves feel good. Every teen goes through a period of discovery. So why do they shut each other down?

When I started high school, I had already discovered my taste in music. A daily dose of My Chemical Romance, followed by Linkin Park, and then maybe (just maybe) a little bit of The Used or Taking Back Sunday. My music tastes were known; however, my sense of style wasn’t. I had experimented a bit in middle school and knew that I looked amazing in the color black. So, of course, that’s where I started. By the end of the year, I had gained a reputation for being “that weird emo girl.” I was made fun of by other girls and the guys would be nice to my face, but ultimately talk about me behind my back. Both my sense of style and the bullying grew throughout the next few years, and by the time I graduated, I both hated the students and myself because I was “cringey.” So, what did that mean? What was “Cringe Culture” and how was I involved?

Cringe Culture is “a culture started on the Internet of making fun of people or insulting them by calling them ‘cringey’ or ‘cringe’ for doing something which doesn’t harm or somehow insult anyone nor anything” according to the Urban Dictionary. Cringe Culture has been around for years. Some may even argue decades. Myth has it that it started when the internet started. So, it’d make sense that the first real generation to grow up surrounded by the internet would carry Cringe Culture into the real world. And in some cases, the “cringe” may seem totally acceptable. Cases of furries wearing fursuits in public and “edgy” teens wearing trench coats and carrying Samurai Swords do seem “cringey.” However, when does Cringe Culture stop and bullying begin? In my case, it was an MCR shirt.

When I started college, I originally was a music major. The first thing I noticed was the lack of judgment. There were many different types of people in the class and not a single one thought or said anything about the other students’ appearances. As that first semester passed by, it became more apparent that no one really cared. Students could be who they wanted. People could go to school wearing pajamas and holding a stuffed animal or dressed in cosplay for no reason and as long as it wasn’t something inherently sexual (and even then, a lot of people still could get away with it), no one cared. I was confused, so I wanted to figure out why there was so much less shame in college.

Unfortunately, my attempt to answer my own question lead nowhere. Answers were just a slew of “because college is accepting of everyone” type stuff that really wasn’t true. So why does Cringe Culture seem to disappear on college campuses? Is it because we, as people, have matured? Or is it possible that those who pushed the culture onto others just never went to college? Or maybe it’s just something that doesn’t really exist outside the confines of the internet and is only used as an excuse for bullying? The answer isn’t really important. What is important is that we recognize that it often goes too far.