The secret to finding true joy online? Embracing your most cringeworthy self

Ditching perfectly filtered selfies and carefully curated memes for posts that show our real, messy selves might feel embarrassing, but it’s good for us

I’ve always been hyperaware of how I am perceived. Like most “digital natives”, I know my angles, have perfected the art of the not-too-earnest Instagram caption and frantically delete my drunken Instagram Stories the morning after a big night out. But now we’re being urged to let our most “cringe” selves loose on the internet and I, for one, am in favour.

Meme accounts such as @afffirmations are encouraging a new type of online oversharing – accepting that, ultimately, we are all embarrassing on social media. “I am cringe, but I am free” memes have swept Instagram, with dedicated cringe accounts cropping up alongside increased engagement in behaviour that would once have induced days of dread.

Anecdotally, more of us are revelling in sending replies to friends’ (and even strangers’) Stories as if they were posted for our personal viewing pleasure; elsewhere, we are commenting on public posts with all the enthusiasm of a “live, laugh, love” Facebook mum.

This move to be more authentic online may seem positive, but many of us remain reluctant to hang up our perfectly curated, Facetuned selfies. The pristine facade that apps such as Instagram have enabled for more than a decade is hard to drop. In short, we’re still scared of being considered “too much”.

When it comes to posting anything more personally or politically charged than a faux-affirmation meme, our fear of getting it wrong can be paralysing. But this self-censorship is holding us all back – if we insist that life online must be “perfect”, it’s enjoyable for absolutely no one. It’s by revelling only in our most cringeworthy thoughts, and accepting that the internet is just as messy as our “real” lives, that we can escape from the clutches of doomscrolling. We are all cringe – and I urge you to embrace the embarrassing if you want to find true joy online.

• Ione Gamble is the author of Poor Little Sick Girls: A Love Letter to Unacceptable Women

Ione Gamble

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Should it be illegal to post embarrassing pictures of your kids? I wish I’d done less ‘sharenting’ | Emma Beddington
I’ve never smeared my sons in Nutella or scared them for the sake of ‘likes’. But there are things I wish I’d kept off social media, writes Emma Beddington

Emma Beddington

12, Mar, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
I’ve decided to become an #influencer. How hard can it be? | Sofie Hagen
I know it’s the height of toxic capitalism, but you get free stuff and money – so what’s not to like? Maybe the fact it’s really difficult, writes Sofie Hagen

Sofie Hagen

08, May, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
Peonies envy: do I really love blowsy flowers or has Instagram destroyed my ability to think?
Millions of posts suggest that everyone loves big, bright blooms. So I guess I do too, writes Emma Beddington

Emma Beddington

14, Jun, 2021 @3:27 PM

Article image
The sudden dawn of the deinfluencer: can online superstars stop us shopping?
A backlash against overconsumption is spreading fast on social media. Is this the beginning of the end for our rampant, destructive consumer culture – or just influencing by another name?

Ellie Violet Bramley

22, Feb, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Antisocial media: why I decided to cut back on Facebook and Instagram
Only when I tried to quit social networks did I realise how addictive and enveloping they are designed to be. Now I am convinced we are heading for a public health crisis

Arwa Mahdawi

01, Jan, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Instagram is supposed to be friendly. So why is it making people so miserable?
For a growing number of users and mental health experts, the positivity of Instagram is precisely the problem, with its relentless emphasis on promoting ‘perfect’ lifestyles. Should everyone just stop scrolling?

Alex Hern

17, Sep, 2018 @9:30 AM

Article image
Instagram has looked deep into my soul – and I really don’t like what it has found there | Zoe Williams
Its algorithm suggests I am most interested in jewellery, luxury goods, electronic music, love and emotions. Nothing could be further from the truth

Zoe Williams

10, May, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Stop doomscrolling! The 50 cheeriest social media accounts – from dancing academics to seal pups
Now more than ever we all need to sprinkle some happiness into our social media feeds. Here are the best accounts to follow, whether you love spectacular jelly creations or hilarious Japanese mascots

Stuart Heritage

15, Mar, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
The one change that didn’t work: I deleted all my social media apps – and found myself bored
I really did have more time on my hands when I quit addictive online platforms. But I missed connecting with friends and discovering unexpected inspiration

Ammar Kalia

26, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Instagram at 10: how sharing photos has entertained us, upset us – and changed our sense of self
From its early days as a whimsical, arthouse space through more recent waves of influencers and pool inflatables, the world’s favourite photo-sharing app has rewired society for good and bad

Jess Cartner-Morley

20, Sep, 2020 @1:00 PM