Laughing Matter?


Q:  Is it considered bullying if I make a joke about someone, and that person and the others around us laughs at it too? No, right? 

Q: Could “just teasing” become a euphemism for “bullying?”

Teasing is light-hearted, playful joking around between friends and family mutually. It is done with a sense of fun and to create laughter and amusement between the people involved. Teasing is friendly and fun even if it makes someone a little embarrassed sometimes. What we laugh at – seems both important and relevant. Laughter is as important as contemplation and is said to release endorphins which help us feel good and help us bond to others.  Laughter has also been called the best medicine.

But is there a relation of laughter to humiliation and bullying? 

Bullying—publicly ridiculing and laughing at someone, helping to normalize the humiliation of one’s friends, and the intent to ridicule them is a completely new ball game. Sharing a laugh positions those who are amused (fans) as insiders, and those who are the object of chuckles as outsiders, or “others.” The insiders laugh at an individual; the “other,” and in so doing connect onlookers.

What is “teasing” to one person may feel like bullying to another. How can one be sure that the other is laughing with you or just pretending and is actually feeling very uncomfortable? There can be a fine line between the two. Teasing can become bullying if it hurts a person even if is done with the intention not to hurt the other. Bullying comes in many shapes and sizes. There is the proverbial mean kid at school who mistreats others, and is easy to identify. Then there is the more common and subtle form of bullying which comes in the disguise of playing and joking. When playing turns into teasing or targeting an individual or a group it has become a form of bullying. If one person is creating humor and causing others to laugh at the expense of another, and everyone else is laughing except for the individual who is at the blunt end of the joke, it is a form of bullying.

Teasing usually comes from someone we trust and that we know is only messing with us as a friend and can be seen as mere camaraderie. It can even be seen as helping one another to face our own dis-ease, to ‘take-the vulnerability’ in stride and help facilitate taking our own selves less seriously- letting laughter of others roll off our back stoically. Does that mean also not acknowledging our emotions? What if we really feel so uncomfortable that it causes anxiety, sadness, fear, depression, discouraged. What if the very ‘family’ ‘friends’ we go to escape from the world begins to become just like the world.

Could it then be called bullying?

Would you agree that there’s a fine line; teasing can have the effect of bullying but it is not usually intentional and is disguised as “humor”.

Cyberbullying has been on the rise since Co-Vid has forced more and more people in isolation with more time to be online. This form of harassment is a way to inject excitement and drama into their lives, and it has become a form of entertainment; it can give a sense of power and status to those doing it. Having an audience, especially those who laugh at the bullying, gives that person a feeling of control and importance inflamed by egotism.  Many who get involved give in to peer pressure. They want to fit in or not be seen as the odd one out or uncool. Groups spur each other on. Some really don’t see that they’re doing anything wrong. They see it as just a harmless joke, especially when they have the sense that everyone does it. Online, there’s a sense of invincibility because one never sees the pain and discouragement of the victim, which makes it harder to have empathy and far easier to continue .

As a bystander, one is playing a role in the bullying.

One can choose to make things better or worse. You might wonder, “How can I be a bystander if the bullying (laughing @) is not happening in front of me?”

You are a bystander if you read it, see it, or hear about it and here is how you are supporting it:

  • Seeing the bullying online and doing nothing.
  • Participating and going along, being disrespectful to elders.
  • Calling people and telling them to log on to see the comments or pictures.
  • Talking to others about it or laughing about it.
  • Commenting on wall pictures, or messages in a way that encourages the bully.
  • Forwarding messages, emails, instant messaging chats, tests, etc.
  • As a bystander you have a choice to take actions when you see or hear and help guide the others.
  • If they make fun of you for being uptight, they are bullying you.

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