“Awkward” is turning into a trend, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about it. While it sure is nice to see widespread recognition of the fact that not everyone always knows the right thing to say or do, those with genuine social anxiety may find the events labeled as awkward to be ludicrously trivial. Why would we get embarrassed over encountering someone cute when not wearing our favorite shoes, or returning everything we take into a dressing room? We do things like nervously greet our superiors with “you today how are” and fall up the stairs, hitting someone in the face with whatever we were carrying, on a daily basis.
How does something classify as “awkward”? Well, first let’s see what awkward is really meant to signify. According to the omnipresent Dictionary.com, awkward is
- lacking skill or dexterity
- lacking grace or ease in movement
- lacking social graces or manners
- not well planned or designed for easy or effective use
- requiring caution; somewhat hazardous
I suppose that those are fairly straightforward definitions; but overall, at least the way I see it, an awkward situation is a situation that makes one uncomfortable and/or embarrassed. We all know it happens to everyone–probably even flawless individuals like Jennifer Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch, if they count as “everyone”–but that hardly makes it easier to take. I can’t be the only one who’s kept up at night agonizing about something stupid I said or did last year. Please tell me I’m not the only one, or I’m going to start losing sleep for admitting that.
So now we know what awkward moments are, and we know how widespread and painful they are. How did awkward become a trend? Well, I’m no expert, but my guess is that it all started with that now-overused phrase, “That Awkward Moment When [insert something considered embarrassing here]“. Maybe people from my neck of the woods are a little behind the times, but I still here it used as an everyday expression at school. It’s gotten to the point of “that awkward moment when you just said ‘that awkward moment when’ for the tenth time today.” It’s awkwardness within awkwardness–spooky!
Then there’s the Socially Awkward Penguin meme. I personally apologize for dragging such scourges of the Farthest Reaches of the Internet into our little WordPress haven, but it’s worth it for the sake of illustration.
As generic a device of expression as the meme is, it is undeniably easy to relate to, and most variations that I’ve seen manage to balance everyday embarrassments with real social anxiety. Somehow, it’s comforting to see oneself so well reflected in something created by another. That’s one of the upsides of the awkward trend–a sense of camaraderie, even if it is a tad overdone.