Trend Alert: Cringe content

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Just like the ugly fashion trend of Instagram, posting cringey videos is a popular tactic for getting attention on TikTok, demonstrating that for some young people, achieving internet fame is worth the price of being mocked by their peers.

A recent piece for NBC News showcased two of TikTok’s top creators, Lauren Godwin (13 million followers) and Sebastian Bails (5 million). They discussed the good and bad sides of their experience on the Chinese video app. They receive a constant stream of vicious comments from other users, but they are able to make a living entirely from social media. Godwin says they decided to “embrace the cringe,” while Bails explains, “if they’re hating or loving you, regardless, it’s growing your page.”

Cringe content is a popular theme on TikTok, where the freedom to be funny and silly has been key to its Gen Z success, in contrast to Instagram’s pressure to be perfect. The egirl is another TikTok trend that has risen from this feeling, and can also be linked to the concept of having a “finsta” - a second Instagram account just for your friends. Gen Z are acutely aware of how their online persona can impact their reputation and the value of curating their personal brand on social media, but they also relish any opportunity to rebel against these pressures and let loose from the stresses of today’s teenage experience.

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