High schoolers and the culture of mocking

With school shootings over recent years nearly always being attributed to students who had been mocked or otherwise abused, and couldn’t take it any more, I was struck by a current car commercial. The idea of the commercial is that the car is so great you don’t actually need to go anywhere in it, you can just hang out in the car.

So these three guys are parked in it, waiting for a friend. The friend comes out of his house and gets in, and says, “So where do you want to go?”, and the others just stare at him as if he said something really stupid. Finally, one of the three repeats, “So where do you want to go?”, and you can tell that the intent is to put down the guy who said it.

My question for current and recent high schoolers is this: Is this subtle mocking really so pervasive in late adolescent culture these days? I have to say it’s pretty depressing. If I were a pre-teen seeing things like that I’d dread high school. As it was in my own experience, I remember virtually never being subjected to abuse or mocking, and in one or two very definite ways I could have been considered a likely target.

I’ve seen mocking when I was in high school and probably prevented one or two of my friends from getting beat up (I graduated in the mid-80s). However, I never saw violence erupt like it has recently. Everything was settled with fisticuffs.

The Hollywood version I see so often (usually pitting the haves vs. the have nots) I never saw, but then again it could be because there wasn’t a wide chasm when it came to the student’s socio-economic factors. But there always was teasing. I think it’s worse in elementary school.

Kids seem meaner, younger.

Monkeys jump up and down and screech and fling shit at one another to hash out dominance.

I’ve always wondered why some folks have difficulty believing people and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor.

Is it really pervasive? Hell yes. I’d say almost constant from about seventh grade through tenth, not quite as bad but still present for a few years on either side.

I don’t know whether things are worse now than they used to be, but I wouldn’t be surprised – schools are getting bigger, supervision and discipline are often inconsistent, and the kids are miserable most of the time, so it’s not surprising they take it out on each other.

This is my first post… so hopefully I won’t mess this up somehow.

Anyway, I felt compelled to answer this question because I do go to high school. I witness the situation you described every day. I particpate in it every day. There is constant mocking and put-downs and joking.

Maybe its just my school. I do go to an all-guy school, and I think that might have a lot to do with it. In my experience, guys are a lot more sarcastic than most girls. I’m not saying that’s always true, but just as a gender, the way I communicate with my guy friends is a lot different than how my female friends communicate with each other. Because of this, anything I say at my school could potentially draw a sarcastic comment in return. Eventually a person just gets used to it. When my friends do it, I don’t mind as much as when the people who aren’t my friends do it. I know my friends aren’t trying to put me down; they’re just joking around. It happens to everyone, and just about everyone does it.

And to comment on the commercial, one of the most common ways to mock someone is to just repeat whatever they said in an annoying voice. I can’t describe the voice, but everyone usually uses the same one. This to me is actually worse than being actually insulted. It can hurt more.

Is it depressing? At times it can be upsetting, but over time a person gets used to it. They adapt to it, and just learn to ignore it.

I hated most of my time in highschool because I was sinlged out and picked on almost all the way through. Mostly it was just words and being ostracised, but there were occasions I was physically assaulted too.

I have to admit, I left highschool several years ago, but that is what it was like back then. Sometimes it was to make the bully look big and tough, sometimes it was just to amuse bored, small minded idots.


Welcome, ThongMan. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten a first time poster in a thread that I opened.

I did see a lot of jocular ribbing, but it almost always seemed to be good-natured.

I think I know the “annoying” voice you’re talking about, although I’m struck by how, when that last guy speaks, his voice just sounds normal. Which makes it more subtle, I suppose.

I go to high school. However, my perspective may be skewed by the fact that I’m taking almost all advanced classes, so I’m not exposed to a random sample. Anyway, from what I’ve seen and done, mocking is mainly between friends. I almost never do it to people I don’t know well enough for them to know I’m joking, and vice versa. Only the teachers really get venom from everyone in my school, behind their backs of course.

I go to high school too, and I find that the sarcasm IS pervasive, but mostly among friends. It’s rather irritaing sometimes, especially if you don’t know somebody very well and they “joke around” with you like that - it’s all in good fun, but disconcerting because they are taking liberties with your feelings like that even though they barely know you. The line between actually teasing and friendly sarcasm (what an oxymoron!) can be very thin. For instance, I know a few girls in my math team class who “joke around” with me like that - it’s difficult to tell if I am genuinely disliked or if it’s just their style. I’ve been in their class for nine months, seeing them on weekends and over spring break as tournaments dictate, and there are times when I still can’t tell.

I’m a bit of a geek (I admit it.) so I got teased in grade school, but I find that as people gradually started to realize that being smart was an advantage and could get you places (though some never do realize this) it gradually dropped off. The fact that people matured over time likely had something to do with it as well. I don’t know if this is normal, but it is how it went with me.

javaman, I think you might be making a bit of a jump. The mocking that contributes (I doubt it the only cause) to school violence is completely different from the mocking that commerial demonstrates. I’m a college student and my group of friends and I have no problem with picking on each other. It is all in good fun and has several unwritten rules that prevent misunderstandings and/or fights.

As for why, I think that entertainment can be partially credited. From the jabs between friends on “What’s Happening” to the full out verbal sparing match on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” we see sacrasm used and incorporate it into our lives. IANAPsychologist (yet). YMMV.

Sarcasm is different from mocking. When I think “mocking”, I think real nastiness - verbal abusiveness.

I wasn’t mocked in high school - my younger sister was. I got out in '97, she in '99. She was quiet & rather, um, eccentric. She had difficulty controlling her frustration, etc. I’ll admit, she sometimes behaved like a weirdo. Because she behaved like a weirdo, some of the kids mocked her. Instead of trying to fit in, she developed a “Fuck them, I’ll show them bizarre!”, antagonistic attitude. This caused some of them to really rip into her - she hated high school.

Put it this way; she once walked home a mile plus in a snowstorm even though she knew my dad was on his way to pick her up. Why? She couldn’t stand to be with her fellow students any longer than she had to.

College kids are, on the whole, much more mature. Then again, so is my sister.

I graduated high school in '99.

My personal experiance was that I was never “in” or “cool.” Whatever “cool” was, I was its opposite, and so I always tried really hard to be it. I think that caused worse mocking than if I had just accepted that I was different and lived with it. But I was mocked horribly for many years; I’m surprised I have any self-esteem left. I recall the “cool” kids ridiculing things I said in class, making fun of my clothes all the time, making me feel inferior because I was on tech crew (and everyone knows tech crew is so lame). In fact, for three years I couldn’t face the lunchroom, because my lameass friends at the time insisted on eating with the “cool” kids who would just terrorize me while I sat there. I ate in the tech crew office until my senior year.

One particular story: I had a popular “friend” who led me to believe that this guy really liked me. Of course he was cute and popular and a football player and thus way out of my league, but she and our “friends” told me how he was asking about me, said he thought I was pretty, etc. They feed me this shit for over two months, but it took a lot of persistence on their part for my to finally believe them and then work up the courage to ask him to the prom (at their suggestion). I asked him, he laughed in my face, they completely ditched me and refused to speak to me for the rest of the year, and told everyone what had happened. Finally, the “friend” who started the whole thing ended up going to the prom with him.

My favorite quote from middle school came from my “best friend” Jen who was friends with a boy I thought was cute. She told me (and the entire bus) that she would tell him I was really nice, even if I was ugly. I ended up walking three miles to and home from school for two years in middle school because of shit like that.

Of course, sometime during my break from school I realized that those people were much lamer than I would ever be, and I don’t have those problems anymore.

Any ladies in the audience should get ahold of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” for some interesting reading. All about what she calls “alternative aggression” among girls, for example, alliance building, shunning, cruel joking, as well as “indirect” aggression – manipulating others to hurt on your behalf.

“In my experience, guys are a lot more sarcastic than most girls.”
Have you read Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood, Thongman? In my experience, girls tend to be nastier. By the way, welcome to SDMB.
Hm, school violence… a few weeks ago, some guys went into the classroom opposite my mother’s and started beating the crap out of some kid, but I think that was drug-related.
Yes, I do think that sarcasm is becoming more pervasive, particularly in high school. I think the ‘put-down’ is fast becoming our most important form of humour. It can be done in good fun between friends, but very few high schoolers restrict their use of sarcasm to close friends who will understand that their intent is not to seriously mock or denigrate them. It’s an all-round defense mechanism- if you say everything sarcastically, you tend to be perceived as witty, and you avoid vulnerability.
The dividing line between plain sarcasm and mocking can be very thin. There was a kid in my grade 7 class who was a little odd, and was teased and mocked unmercifully for it, usually under the veneer of joking. It didn’t turn him into a killer, but I found out later that he developed pretty bad schizophrenia, and that the teasing might have been a trigger in his illness’s development.
What really disturbs me is when very small children learn to use sarcasm. I watched Ice Age a few days ago, and while I watched it, it struck me that almost all the characters did was make fun of each other. I kept thinking, if my (as yet hypothetical) children spoke to each other that way, I’d be very, very upset.

Hmm, I was going to say there’s much more verbal nastiness among girls, but looking back on it I’m not so sure. Girls seem to have a gift for manipulating social relationships in particularly unpleasant ways (i.e. making up false rumors that are just plausible enough to be believed, and telling them to just the right people so the entire school will hear). Guys may have the same level of malice, but not the same finesse. On the other hand, they can usually hit harder, and it is even more devastating to hear how not-pretty you are from a male than from a female…

My junior high years were not pleasant, in case you can’t tell.

Girls can be positively vicious. I know that was on both the giving and receiving end of such nastiness in junior high. Fortunately, by the time I was in high school, I found a group of friends that didn’t engage in such tactics.

I think part of it is that most junior high and high schools create an atmosphere that allows this stuff to flourish. As someone pointed out, high schools are huge and many feel like holding pens for teenagers rather than institutions of learning. It’s very easy to get lost in the crowd. Many of the teachers I had obivously did not respect their students. A few mocked their students openly on occasion. Needless to say, none of this is conducive to civilized discourse.

My best friend transferred to a home school because he says he’s been teased since first grade. He couldn’t even finish ninth grade at HS. However, I think he may be a little hypersensitive, and tends to think that any comment which isn’t “Yeah, I agree with you” is teasing.

I have been teased myself but I never let it go to my head. I either mock the person mentally inside my head, and make them laughable, or I find something silly with the taunt and it becomes less hurtful. There was a boy who used to kick my backpack-on-wheels every day in ninth grade, though he eventually stopped (I now use a regular backpack, but not because of him).

My grandmother teaches at the HS. Besides the fringe benefits (she can give out referrals to teasers!), there are some downsides. She teaches special ed; I’ve never had a problem with the special ed kids teasing me, but the Resource students (kids smart enough to do regular HS work but who won’t, or can’t because of other factors) can be extremely mean. I get regular put-downs from them daily. It doesn’t help that I’ve got the job of keeping them out of Grandma’s room when they’re not supposed to be in there. There’s a lot of animosity there, but it’s nothing really important.

I can’t say as I’ve seen class differences here (rich kids vs. poor kids). You can tell who has money, sure, but I’ve never seen it as an actual issue because this is a poorer town. Also, like Qwertyasdfg, I am also in gifted/enriched classes, and there is less teasing there.

Lissla Lissar, thanks for the welcome to the message board. I haven’t read Cat’s Eye, and to be honest I’ve never even heard of it. I read a summary of it on Amazon though, so now I have some idea of what its about. I agree that girls can be nastier, but in my experience the sarcasm is more prevelant in the regular conversation of guys than girls. In dealing with the mockery issue though, I can just remember the other day when these girls were making fun of a girl that wasn’t there. I don’t particularly like the girl they were making fun of, but I really felt bad for her because of the way they were talking about her. I don’t hang out with that many girls though, so my experience with how bad the mockery is among them is rather limited.

This must be the day for this topic…

I was picked on horribly in school, specifically middle school. Once I got to high school I could hide in the crowd enough so that not many people would notice me. Even when I found a group of “wierdos” that I thought I could fit in with, there was always one or two other girls in the crowd who aboslutely hated me and tried to make my life a living hell. I hated high school and middle school because no one would ever take my side against these people. I had to take steroids for awhile for a blood problem and it made me highly aggressive. However, since I didn’t have any noticeable physical problem, the teachers kept referring me to the counselors who wanted me to work through my rage. {long string of expletives directed at all school counselors deleted} The girls who picked on me were never caught, never punished, never disciplined, and are now most likely working some minimum wage job trying to support a couple of kids while I’m about to graduate from college. (Gee, Spaz, still bitter? Ya think?)

As a matter of fact, it was almost always the girls who picked on me. Boys didn’t notice me much, either positively or negatively. I would rather have dealt with the guys because the girls were the nastiest of nasty. Guys were/are more interested in their own gender pecking order to notice the girls’ pecking order.

Now that I’m a student teacher the situation has reversed itself. I have very few problems with the girls in my classes, but there’s a couple of guys who mock me and the majority of their other teachers constantly. It seems that the “culture of mocking” referred to in the OP has evolved to include taking jabs at authority figures, something that was out of the question back in My Day (I graduated HS in 1998). Of course, that was when discipline in the schools actually meant something…