Dhinchak Pooja’s ‘Selfie maine leli aaj’: Why are cringeworthy videos so popular?
From Taher Shah and Vennu Mallesh to Dhinchak Pooja, there seems to be no relief from a continuous barrage of mind-numbingly cringeworthy videos and memes on the Internet. Some love them and others hate them, but no one can ignore them.
The latest reason for the Internet going berserk again is the release of YouTuber Dhinchak Pooja’s recent song ‘Selfie maine leli aaj’. And her viral stardom makes us wonder: Why are we hooked to videos like these when they are so annoying or absurd?
“Typically, a cringe video is one involving an awkward or embarrassing situation for one person or more. And the reason for its popularity is people deriving a sadistic pleasure from seeing the humiliation of others,” explains Prerna Kohli, a Delhi-based clinical psychologist who has worked extensively with patients suffering from social media addiction.
She says that a person who enjoys watching such videos, or is obsessed by them, most likely suffers from low self-esteem and thereby enjoys the discomfort and humiliation of others. “There is also a high probability that this person is a bully, or has latent bully tendencies,” she says.
These videos and memes undoubtedly have a peculiar ability to go viral. They appeal to the human psyche in a way that one cannot help but watch and share, making them spread through the web.
Several studies have attempted to explore the viral nature of Internet memes and videos. According to a study by Prof Shifman from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the most successful video memes share six common features: a focus on ordinary people, flawed masculinity, humour, simplicity, repetitiveness and whimsical content.
Take Taher Shah, Vennu Mallesh or Bhim Niroula. They are all ordinary folk who have relied on YouTube videos to attain the stardom they enjoy today. This makes them more relatable and engaging. Their songs have simple lyrics with catchy phrases that turn earworms. Dhinchak Pooja breaks the gender stereotype of the cringe block, but her videos share all the other elements.
As do the videos of American singer and vlogger (video blogger) Rebecca Black, who is often credited as the original cringe-pop star. In 2011, her music video, ‘Friday’, received millions of views on YouTube within days, and became the most talked-about topic (or, should we say, the butt of all jokes) on Twitter. She was bombarded with criticism over her bad lyrics (Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/ Today is Friday, Friday) and her equally bad rapping. But her song was too bad to be missed.
“The fascination for so-bad-it’s-almost-surreal things is part of basic human nature,” says Bhanuj Kappal, a freelance journalist and culture writer. “And with the Internet allowing anyone to create and put up their photos/videos for the rest of us to watch and share, that tendency has given birth to these viral video memes.”
“The reason such videos go viral are basically the same as that for any meme — a little bit of schadenfreude and human meanness mixed with the Internet culture’s inbuilt obsession with the ironic and the absurd,” he adds.
Interestingly, these videos seem to be getting more attention in India. The increasing penetration of the Internet in the country allows people to watch and share these videos, providing a favourable ground for cringe-pop stars like Dhinchak Pooja and Vennu Mallesh to thrive.
Rooshi Syed, a young professional from Delhi, gives a fan’s take on why cringe videos are popular. “My favourite is Taher Shah. I look forward to his songs because they instil an element of hope in me. It’s not the hope and love that his songs are all about, but the hope one gets upon seeing a man with no real talent doing exactly what he wants to do. Isn’t it inspiring to see the ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ sentiment being taken to a different level altogether? Same is the case with Dhinchak Pooja.”
The amount of buzz around ‘Selfie maine le li aaj’ is proof enough that this viral trend is nowhere close its saturation point. Instead, more Dhinchak Poojas seem to be waiting in the wings — all set to pounce on netizens when they least expect it.
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