Laughing at instead of with

People are ridiculous.

We do and say stupid things on a regular basis.

I once thought it would be a really good idea to remove the ledges on my office windows with a high powered reciprocal saw.

In retrospect, not such a bright idea. Not bright at all. But no one got hurt, I was able to laugh at myself, and it made for some great blog fodder.

I’ve been seen on more than one occasion walking my kids to the bus stop wearing fuzzy polka-dot pajama pants and a “Who’s your Daddy?” t-shirt. And again, I was able to laugh at myself for doing so.

But in both of the above instances, I choose to share my pictures and my story here. I invited you to laugh. I gave you permission to laugh at me and to do so openly.

I have a confession to make. There are a few websites I used to frequent on a somewhat regular basis because they posted pictures of people looking ridiculous. It was sort of my guilty pleasure. It never occurred to me (because I never gave it much thought) that these pictures were being taken by strangers and submitted to these websites without the consent of the person or persons being photographed. It wasn’t until I heard a news story about one such website that I realized that a what I considered “harmless fun” wasn’t so harmless after all.

It seems a woman recognized a picture of her mother on the website and was quite upset. The website removed the picture, and will remove any such picture upon request, but thanks to search engines and the ability to download virtually any picture from the internet, they’re all still out there somewhere. Besides, the damage has already been done. Someone provided an opportunity for thousands of people to have a good, hearty laugh at someone else’s expense. Someone’s mother’s expense. I wonder how hard they would laugh if they were to find their picture displayed without their permission looking like a hot mess?

Oh, but that would never happen. Because they have more class than to go to Walmart dressed like a dirty pirate hooker.

Just not enough class not to laugh at someone else’s expense.

Editor’s Note: I don’t mean to imply that any website or television program which depicts people being funny unintentionally (whether it be by actions or by their outward appearance) is wrong. America’s Funniest Videos and Candid Camera did that successfully for years. But they did so with the permission of those who were the subjects of said videos. That’s vastly different from what’s happening now. When I find myself laughing at a picture of someone who probably wouldn’t laugh along with me, it shames me. It makes me feel like an anonymous bully. Because basically, that’s what I’ve become.

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15 Responses to “Laughing at instead of with”

  1. karenzach March 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I have come to the same sort of conclusion, & not only about funny stuff, but about privacy issues in general. Taking photos of someone’s cute baby and posting it on my blog without a parent’s permission or someone eating in an airport, that sort of thing.
    And while we are on the subject of humor, one reason I wanted to set up the website was in response to a trend I’ve noticed of people using humor as a means to deride the church body. It’s as if laughing makes it okay to be mean-spirited. I love to laugh as much as anyone and self-effacing humor is appreciated but I’ve gotten cranky in my old age about people using humor to disguise their ugly ways.
    Stepping off the platform now.
    Billy Coffey will be guest posting on Monday at
    Stay tuned.

    • katdish March 25, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      Feel free rant here. Can’t wait for Billy’s post. It’s a good-un.

  2. JoelR March 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Dang, now I can’t look at…, that site you’re talking about. Okay, I can still look at it, but I’ll feel bad the whole time. Which, unfortunately, is how I handle boycotts of places I really like to go. I kinda suck at this whole “progressive” thing.

    • JoelR March 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

      Btw, if I like the dirty pirate hookers, is it okay to look?

  3. Jason March 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    I know the sites of which you speak. I’ve had a morbid fascination in the past with them but now I feel the same way you do about them. Good for you standing up and posting this. FWIW, proud of you.

  4. A Simple Country Girl March 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    The whole displaying of images without permission and/or consent is a bit freaky. I routinely find that people come to my blog through an image of my son I once posted. I try to follow the link, but it just takes me to the image out in a mysterious cyberland location. It’s makes me want to put an itty-bitty tagline on my photos that says “actual image content is protected by my Baby Glock”

    Regarding Candid Camera, more than once I have stopped in the midst of some public display of gigantic goofiness and hollered, “Hey, am I on Candid Camera or what?!” I get some odd stares, but that is all.

  5. Matthew Snider March 25, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    Those pictures are making me laugh out loud at work.

    Great writing Kat!

    • katdish March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks. Funny, my husband was not nearly as amused about it as I was.

  6. Paolo Mateo March 25, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    The act of laughing at others without their knowing it is an old, old past-time of our species. It is shameful and, in my view, happening more often in all media circles, from the daily news on TV to the vast Web. Unfortunately, what is right hasn’t the might to change the momentum. This isn’t going to get better. Anonymity on the Web makes this easier and much more provocative, but it isn’t just that. I see in all of us a taint, a bitterness with what we are told we must have and often can’t — we are, after all, the product of our incessant marketing efforts — with a result being an increasing interest to ban together on negative concepts, like a posse or riot forming. With everyone shouting out “Me! Me! Me!” it’s hard to promote compassion for others and the wearing of someone else’s shoes.

    As for laughing at you, I guess I find your noted antics too ‘every-day’ to take advantage of. I mean, doesn’t everyone find the biggest tool to do a job and run around outdoors in their jammies?

  7. Tony Alicea March 25, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    I have a feeling I’m going to be one of those dads that make my kids cringe with embarrassment.

    I agree with you completely, although I’m not always consistent. I definitely don’t like the mean-spirited crap though. That sucks.

  8. Jake March 25, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    “Just not enough class not to laugh at someone else’s expense.”

    Although I frequent Walmart in my dirty pirate hooker attire on a weekly basis, I’ve laughed at the other people who occasionally dress like down and out humans who have made questionable wardrobe choices. Interestingly enough, I’ve felt a little convicted about it from time to time but I’ve pushed back at it with laughter.

    Kathy, way to pay attention to your convictions and way to help us think twice about ours!

  9. Hazel Moon March 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    When our children were small, we took certain TV programs off their limits such as “the three stouges.” It was when they began to hit each other and laugh that we knew it was time to cut some of the exposure. Certain cartoons were similar, but then they are not real people. I am guilty of laughing at some of the stunts pulled at WalMart etc, but I certainly would not like it if I was the guest on the show! 🙂

  10. Helen March 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I’d feel really bad if I found out I laughed at somebody’s Momma, because I can’t imagine anything hurting me more than someone being cruel to mine. Wow. Great post, Katdish.

  11. connie nylund March 28, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks for this great post. And I learned much from the comments of your readers! You’re awesome! SO glad to have met you.

    I know quite a few people who will not go on fb or other social networks because of the privacy thing. When I started on fb it was just to keep in touch with dear ones far away. It grows, doesn’t it. I try to use good judgment about things that might hurt someone else. But it’s a risk, and something to pay attention to.

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