521: Making Fun

What did you get made fun of for growing up? How has that impacted you now?


Full episode script

In February of 2017, the official journal of the World Psychiatric Association published an article that collated the results of three longitudinal studies in three different countries that looked at the results of childhood bullying. That study found that, quote:

Studies indicated that young victims of bullying have higher rates of agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, panic disorder and suicidality in their early to mid‐20s, compared to those who have not been bullied in childhood. Child victims of bullying also have an increased risk of receiving psychiatric hospital treatment and using psychiatric medications in young adulthood. Another study found that victims of bullying in childhood report high levels of psychological distress at age 23 but, most importantly, also at age 50. Adults who were victims of frequent bullying in childhood had an increased prevalence of poor psychiatric outcomes at midlife, including depression and anxiety disorders, and suicidality. The effects were small, but similar to those of other adverse childhood exposures measured in that cohort study, such as placement in public or substitute care, or exposure to multiple adversities within the family.

Bullying is a serious issue that is just starting to be seen as such. That’s not to say, though,, that being made fun of about something and being bullied about something are the exact same thing. Being teased can often be used to reinforce a relationship when there is a pre-existing relationship. When it’s affectionate, it can build that interaction. When it’s aggressive, distressing, or intended to alienate however, that teasing can cross the line in to bullying. As the Canadian PrevNet puts it:

Teasing about physical appearance is almost always hostile and hurtful. This is not surprising since appearance has so much influence on social acceptance and is out of the individual’s control.

And when we’re talking about the internet, a sense of what’s teasing, what’s bullying, and what’s shaming can get a little thrown off. As Laura Hudson wrote in Wired:

We despise racism and sexism because they bully the less powerful, but at what point do the shamers become the bullies? After all, the hallmark of bullying isn’t just being mean. It also involves a power differential: The bully is the one who’s punching down. But a sense of proportion is crucial. These days, too many Internet shame campaigns dole out punishment that is too brutal for the crime. Using an influential social media account to call out individuals isn’t simply saying something is “not cool”; it’s a request to have someone put in the digital stocks, where a potentially unlimited number of people can throw digital stones at them. And it turns out to have real-life consequences for everyone involved.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.