It WAS cringe, but it was OUR cringe. It was cringe specific to a community, a subculture, that could not be found anywhere else. But that which was not cringe was less templated, less overused and abused and less forced, with some extremely notable exceptions. People despised sites like Reddit, not because they were 'leftist' like revisionists of imageboard history claim, but rather because they took this creativity and reduced it to endless reposting and template memes, kind of like what Wojak and Pepe are now, or what Rage Comics became back then. There was a culture of creativity and improvement that just petered out all across the internet, and not really anything as carefree and independent has come to replace it.