June 25, 2008

Easily Embarrassed

[By Crabby]

So, would you like to see the hilarious photo of the guy running in some big race who crapped his running shorts in front of thousands of horrified/amused spectators?

Click here!

Oh sorry, did that link not work?

Must be technical difficulties. Or, more accurately, psychological ones.

I feel profoundly uncomfortable about the growing internet trend of posting and publicizing pictures and videos of ordinary people who did something accidental and humiliating.

Wrong place, wrong time, caught on camera--and now some poor soul has to cope with the fact that their image is all over the world wide web. Someone leaked bodily fluids or fell in an embarrassing way or fell victim to a prank or an accident and perhaps did not conduct himself or herself with grace.

What if that person were me? How would I feel?

Probably pretty close to suicidal. (I am, however, neurotic).

Are these photos and videos obtained and distributed with the permission of the person being made fun of? Well, I don't know. What's your guess? And if I don't know, should I just assume "they must be ok with it because everyone else is posting it too?"

Of course there are plenty of times when I don't mind laughing right along with everyone else:

Stuck-up celebrities who carefully manipulate their image and do everything they can to be photographed constantly so they can sell that image? Well, when they get caught doing something stupid, I don't feel so bad.

Or idiots who film themselves doing reckless stunts and then wipe out in spectacular or humorous ways? I have no problem with those sorts of videos either.

But an ordinary person minding his or her own business who is not asking for trouble? I think we should leave 'em alone. I don't care how "funny" it was; I care that this was an actual person and I don't want to play a part in hurting them.

I'll admit, I'm someone who is easily embarrassed. I get vicariously embarrassed for others and I cringe right along with them. In fact, I don't even like fictional characters to humiliate themselves. I'll fast-forward through a movie when the drunk person starts to get up to make the speech at the black-tie dinner or whatever. I'm weird, I know.

Does anyone else have any thoughts about this? Am I just being too sensitive?


  1. You're not weird. I get very uncomfortable when people get humiliated/embarrassed on screen (even fictional ones). I remember watching "Meet the Parents", when Ben Stiller's lies about the cat get discovered I was shifting uneasily in my seat, wishing this would end.
    On the other hand, my most favorite show has got to be America's funniest videos. I can never get enough of people falling down, or cats making fools of themselves.
    I do see your point though about people being caught and broadcasted without their consent. I have even heard of unsuspecting people ending up being the laughing stock on youtube needing therapy. I know I would. But then again, I get embarassed very easily too and prefer for my mortifying moments to happen in privacy of my own home, with no witnesses. Now the question is: is privacy a thing of the past?


    I swear it has weighed on my mind so much that Im always thisclose to deleting my uber goober videos in case Joel McHale discovers them and I end up on E! friday night being mocked.

    I hurt for these people and my husband is always reminding me that perhaps I hurt FOR them and they dont give a ratsa**

    I disagree.


  3. I find it really sad that there is now a generation of kids who can't make stupid mistakes without the world finding out about it.

    How hard it must be for those who are caught on video phone or tape doing something that might haunt them forever. I'm not talking about people who deliberately do stupid things, but the every day things that can happen to everyone.

  4. I'm right there with you, Crabby. Most of my stupid embarrassing moments (like falling down the stairs in high school) are stored only in my own memory.

    I was somewhere recently where I saw a sign banning cell phone use that included a line about their being banned because many phones include cameras. It was the first time I'd ever really thought about the fact that someone could be snapping pictures.

    I'm afraid for the YouTube generation.

  5. I am there with you. I am one of those gals who ALWAYS root-for-the-underdog. I hate seeing people getting a laugh at someone else's expense.

    People at work are always forwarding stuff like that. The WORST one, these usually put me on the verge of tears, are the people fighting, especially young people. Why would people WANT to see that?? and then pass it along???

    Its like, where is the compassion in the world?

  6. I also get sympathetic embarassment! I can't even watch movies like the 40-Year Old Virgin or anything with Ben Stiller in it because I just can't take the agony of watching their characters humiliate themselves. I have to leave the room!

    I actually did see the picture of the guy who um.... lost control during the race. (I saw it posted in a marathon training forum.) I would feel so horrible if that were me. I just feel so bad for him...

  7. Crabby - you must have read the discussion post on Runner's World yesterday just like I did! The topic was "Most Embarrassing Running Stories." I was cringing all the way. Although I did LOL at the woman who forgot her running shorts one early morning and decided to keep running in her t-shirt and underwear. I love the show "The Office" but sometimes Michael Scott makes me so uncomfortable I can't even watch. And honestly I thought twice about my goals of running a marathon (or even a half) if I run the risk of pooping my shorts in front of a bunch of people...it seems like that's happened to a lot of people - on race day and just training runs - YIKES! Something like that could easily send me running to the nearest cave to live out my days!

  8. Yeah I totally agree. There used to be a time, not too long ago, when we'd occasionally find ourselves having to reassure our kids not to worry because what they'd just seen on TV "was not real." With the magic of the internet, all too much of what we see out there is real. Those otherwise fleeting moments that can neither be taken back nor forgotten.

    I do embarrass easily, so I understand how mortified you'd feel. But even more than my own stupidity/clumsiness/momentary lapse being seen by the world, I worry that it will touch one of my kids. It can do so much damage. All for a perceived laugh.

    Good topic.

  9. I also get embarrassed for others. That's one of the main reasons why I can't watch shows like American Idol (besides the fact that I don't care for it much anyway). I still cover my face during parts of movies that I know are cringe-worthy embarrassment-wise. I'm a bit sad.

    But I freely admit to being a hypocrite. I've received some forwards mocking photos of real people and I admit to laughing. Afterwards, I always wonder who these people are and if they know their photo has now gone viral. I would be mortified if it were me, but does that stop me from opening more of those emails? Apparently not. :(

  10. Ughhh. I remember watching the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996, and Uta Pippig had diarrhea during the race. And she still won. Like, honestly, I cannot imagine running a marathon under worse conditions. Not that I've run any sort of race outside of gym class, but honestly. And they'd mention it like every minute, and once she won, pretty much every question was about what role the diarrhea had in the race. And it was the 100th, so there was a lot more media coverage than usual. I just felt so bad for her.

    But yes, even when I was a kid and I was watching tv, I'd have to leave the room if something embarrassing was about to happen.

    And I never thought about it that way, but marijke is right. I was out of high school before youtube and myspace were big or even existed. And cellphones were just becoming an everybody sort of gadget instead of businessmen, so no camera phones. But I know that there would be people who would put every embarrassing picture on the internet. God, I feel wicked bad for kids nowadays.

  11. Embarrassment is not funny. Humiliating others and publicizing the goof-ups, loss of control in any manner, especially of bodily functions, of real people in real life is offensive, unfunny, cringe-worthy at best, and suggests the person doing the posting of same is lacking in most areas of life.
    I long for privacy. That said, celebrities who mess up in public are for the most part fair game.

  12. I second (or third or fourth by now, I guess) the motion that I can't deal with embarrassing movies. I think that's one of the major reasons I don't like Ben Still and Will Farrell and that whole crew, because their movies are "funny" because of the humiliation factor. I don't find it funny.

    I can't even imagine growing up as a teenager with all of your mistakes posted on YouTube for the rest of the school to laugh at (kids can be cruel). In 8th grade, I remember some kid getting stuffed into a trash can, which was mortifying enough - imagine if you had to live down the live video? The YouTube generation is going to be the Therapy generation once they get out of adolescence.

  13. I'm right there with ya! I don't want to relive my own embarrassing moments in my head, much less share them with millions of anonymous strangers. I bet most (of course not all) people feel that way.

  14. Wonderful post!!

    It's a strange thing to enjoy the misfortune of others.

    Keep up the good standards, Crabby, your fans applaud you!

    Dr. J

  15. I'm uncomfortable with others' embarrassment as well.

    However I feel that a group has been left out: people who were clearly intoxicated when they filmed or had their pictures taken. There are now web sites devoted to taking and posting pictures of clearly drunk (passed out or close to it) girls (and let's not pretend that many girls go wild when they're sober).

  16. The Bag Lady is in agreement with all of you!
    She wonders (much like every other older person in every other generation) what the world is coming to!
    Not only does she feel deep empathy for the persons who have been humiliated, but she also wonders about the people who filmed it -- do they have no compassion?

    There was a video awhile back of a teenage girl being beaten by several other teenage girls, surrounded by a circle of teenagers (including the one who filmed it) and not a single soul stepped in to stop the beating! What the f*ck?! What is wrong with this new generation? In circumstances like that, their first response is not: "I need to help this poor girl who is being beaten up" but: "I need to film this so I can post it on the internet"
    (Side note - the video was used to identify and charge the girls who administered the beating, which I am pretty sure was NOT the intent of the kid who was doing the filming, so it kinda back-fired!)

    But I am deeply concerned about where this tendency to capture embarrassing moments on video is leading us.
    It used to be a big concern that "Big Brother" will be watching us -- well, not only do we have to worry about satellites that are capable of watching our every move, we also have to constantly be on the lookout for the bystander with the cellphone who just might be filming us when we are doing something we would rather not have the whole world see! (Sheesh, and I was paranoid enough before -- thank you, Candid Camera!!)

  17. I agree, seeing those photos distributed like that just hurts my heart. And it makes me feel better to know there are other folks who find movies like "meet the parents" uncomfortable, not funny. Those movies don't entertain me, they just crank up my agitation level since all the humor is based on discomfort.

    And times have definitely changed. I run a small retail shop, and whenever I have a truly odd interaction with a customer and I tell my business partner about it, she replies, "Look for cameras. Maybe you're being punked."

    Meant in jest, of course, but a scary thought, huh?

  18. You are not alone!!! I thought I was the only one who over emphathized with those who are embarassed publically - guess I am not! Apparently losing control like that during a race is not that unusual - my sister who runs marathons has mentioned it before.
    I can't imagine having my teenage idiotic moments being recorded!!!

  19. I am the exact same way, I hate to see people embarrasing themselves. I can't even watch the beginning of American Idol, even though those people have volunteered.

    I'm trying to learn not to be embarrassed so easily - which my 20-mo-old is helping me do with regular public meltdowns.

  20. I heard the Star Wars Kid dropped out of school due to the embarrassment he suffered when his video went viral. I miss privacy.

  21. I get totally embarrassed too! I can't even watch some movies without getting up and leaving the room.

  22. Jens,

    The star war kid was the one I was thinking about when I talked about youtube. I have heard that he felt so humiliated he had to seek profesionnal counseling... all of this for goofing around pretending to be fighting with a light saber. I mean, who hasn't danced in front of the mirror in the bathroom or pretended to be a pop singer or something. If my "all alone" moments were witnessed, I would have to change town/country.

  23. You're not wierd...I think the people should be asked before the video is posted. Some people wouldn't care and some would. People are so much more cruel and critical on the web with anonymity on thier side - you would need a bit of a thicker skin.
    I just keep thinking of that kid who was having fun playing jedi and taped himself and is now probably scarred for life for everyone in the world watching and giggling as he played on tape. I've got lots of stupid stuff in pictures and on tape and I'd never want them on the web without someone asking first - some I'd be OK with now a bit after the fact but some still no.
    Things like american home videos are OK in my mind as they're submitted by the very people who did them, but I feel terrible for some celebrities/people who are followed everywhere (how is buying gas or a slurpee interesting enough to merit photos?). It's good to know I"m not the only clutz out there, but I don't know-it's a lot harder to risk screwing up when the whole world might see it. We don't seem to post cool things people do as much as we do the mistakes. I say they should be asked first before their gaff is posted.

    My Dad always said "Humour at someone else's expense is not humour - it's just being mean. You're better than that".
    I still agree.

  24. I'm just like you; when I see something embarrassing happening to someone else I cringe. I'd take almost anything over humiliation. It's a stinger.

  25. So glad I'm not alone in this... and wow, it's even worse than I thought!

    For example, I never realized the Star Wars kid didn't put the video out there himself, I always just assumed he was looking for a moment in the spotlight. How awful! And if kids are taking camera-phones into their schools and locker rooms, humiliating people and then and posting the pictures? Arggggh.

  26. No. Not too sensitive, but I'm on the fence about the issue. We of course always make fools of ourselves in public at some point in our lives... just hope it's not when someone has a camera in hand!

  27. It is shows like Americas Funniest Videos that have led people and especially kids to post embarrassing moments.

    I can only say that I am grateful as hell that I am not a teenager these days.

    With the prevalence of camera phones, we should all remember to look over our shoulders when using credit or debit cards too! Just had to throw that out there.

  28. YouTube has some great stuff on it, but lots of not so good either.

  29. I feel the same way. The word I use to describe this is "Fardo". it's a word I picked up from a movie critic, who describes it as "the feeling that you are going to die of embarrassment on behalf of someone else."

    Many comedy or romantic comedy or "teenage coming of age" movies are filled with these moments, and thus one of the reasons I never watch this sort of thing.

  30. You are definitely not alone or weird. (None of us commenters are - yay!) I used to embarrass really easily, but somewhere along the way I stopped being embarrassed and started getting mad. Now when I see stuff like that, my reaction is less about being embarrassed for the victim that thinking, "What the hell was that a**hole thinking, filming that?! What an . . . an . . .A**HOLE!"

    Having said that? If someone got me on tape pooping my shorts (God forbid!), I would be totally humiliated. I don't think even *I* could cancel that kind of humiliation with rage.

    And can I just say that the comments in this list give me hope for human decency winning out in the end.

  31. I thought it was just me! I TOTALLY skip the part in movies (and often in books) where a character is humiliated! I just can't take it. I don't like laughing at other people unless they are the ones who bring it up. I don't like watching those videos on the net. I just don't like it, period. And I HATE feeling like Big Brother is watching!

  32. Excellent point Crabby. Being rather hard to embarrass myself (though not impossible), I think I veer towards the insensitive side on this issue. After reading your post and everyone's comments, I feel really badly about that now. I will try to rein it in with my "funny" pics on my blog. Thanks for calling me out, girl & helping me to be more empathetic.

    PS> I do so apologize to anyone I have offended on my site - esp. you Cranky. You're awesome, keep up the great posts!

  33. Charlotte,
    Funny, I hadn't noticed you doing it--I tend to think of your stuff as mostly poking fun at celebrities or yourself. I just kept running into the picture of that poor runner guy on a number of sites and it finally got me thinking about how disturbing it was. So you haven't offended me at all, but I'm all for getting people to think about the issue.

    And "Fardo"--I'm so glad there's a word for it. I suffer from Fardo all the time!

    And I agree with feeling hopeful reading the comments--a lot of us seem to be in good company. I always knew this was an awesome, sensitive group of people.

  34. I totally agree -- embarrassing or humiliating photos have no place in public venues (web, TV talk shows, YouTube, Facebook, office walls, e-mails, etc.) without the person's approval unless they are true news items. "Public" persons have fewer rights than "normal, private" individuals but even their privacy should be respected.

  35. Agreed! Even in this world where everything is captured on youtube, I still believe it holds true: treat others like you want to be treated. Cause I guarantee that if I poop my pants while running (and kudos for said person for being active!) I don't want it floating around the web.

  36. This was the topic of a movie I just watched. It was a bit violent, but it asks the same question you do about being able to put stuff online without regard to what people think.

  37. Wow! I think you hit on a common emotion. I feel for what others are going through often. Very good post!

  38. I think it's clear that you're not the only one who feels so strongly about invasion of privacy and the humiliation of others. I still believe that people who stoop to posting embarassing pictures of others are suffering from a serious lack of self esteem. Not to mention maturity. I can't believe I'm part of such a sick, sad generation. Not too long ago we were discussing involuntary body functions and how it's REALLY not all that funny since stuff like that happens to everyone on occasion.

    I do think celebrities are exempt to a certain extent. It's hard to tell when they are pulling a publicity stunt or when they truely have a problem (Britney Spears & Owen Wilson come to mind of course.)

    Bottom line, it makes me totally uncomfortable to see others embarassed/hurt and I think it's pretty sick that our society has determined it's entertainment.

  39. I hate it when movie or TV characters are doing something stupid and embarass themselves. I fast forward sometimes, too! :) I totally agree with your thoughts!

  40. I get embarassed for others too.
    I recently watch Borat & couldn't help feeling embarassed for the 'innocent' and even for the not so innocent.It was painful to watch...

  41. I blame the Germans.*
    At least, there's a word in German that describes this well:
    Schadenfreude. Generally gets translated as 'delight in the misfortune of others.'

    *Okay, not exclusively. They get the blame because they thought up a name for it. I never said I was logical.

  42. I am the same way actually. To the point where I stopped watching most "comedy" movies because they just make me uncomfortable.

    I don't like to see other people embarrass themselves.

    Maybe there's a whole set of us weirdos out there...we should start a club ^_^

  43. I've never understood how people can find someone else's misfortune or embarrassment funny. There were some local DJs around here who used to (maybe still do for all I know) call people and play elaborate pranks on them over the air. I thought it was horrifying, since I wouldn't want someone to abuse MY trust that way. It was a very popular morning program, though. Go figure.

  44. I'm this way as well. I hate to see people embarrass themselves. That's why I can't watch any reality shows (o.k. one of the reasons). The people on them have no shame and make fools of themselves. I can't bear to see that happen. I cringe in sympathy every time.

  45. I can't watch people embarass themselves either.

    When we used to watch Fraser, I would often get very agitated when he was blundering about, I'd jump up on the couch, hide my head, run to and from the room. I'm a little neurotic too.

    I can't even watch The Office. Can't even do it. And I'm currently stuck about 3/4 of the way into a book where it's just been revealed that the reason the character did something was because he'd been horribly embarassed by a mean girl in high school - I know the full description of the humiliation is coming and I can't crack the book back open.

    So yeah, I'm totally with you - although to be perfectly honest I thought I was totally weird for being like this!

  46. I agree. I dont think that it is right that people are vicimized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wouldnt like it done to me, so i can only think that others wouldnt want it done to them either.

  47. Actually, I came here searching to see if someone else felt the same way. :) I'll have to change the channel in the middle of a television show for about 5 min.'s until I know whatever happened is over.


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