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