Why do we laugh at others misfortunes

Megan Vogt, Opinion Editor

Do you ever catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or the latest craze, Tik Tok watching endless hours of videos? I know I do. Usually as I wind down for the night, I spend time watching videos such as Tipsy Bartender or Ellen mindlessly. However, recently I have found myself laughing at the misfortunes of others. 


The best videos to me are the ones of kids having meltdowns because their water is too wet or their dad shaved. As I researched why we get humor out of other people’s misfortunes. I came across an article from the New York Times that was titled “Stop Posting Your Child’s Tantrum on Instagram” and I thought it was an interesting way to grab the attention of those who are guilty of watching those kinds of videos until they die of laughter, like myself. 


In the article by Rebecca Schrag Hershberg and Daniel T. Willingham, they stated “As psychologists and parents ourselves, we understand the urge to laugh when a child howls because he’s forbidden to eat the packing peanuts from the Amazon box, and we also understand the impulse to make these moments public. The problem is the mockery.


Naturally, joking serves a purpose — it provides psychological distance from negative feelings like shame or anxiety. A study of 105 wheelchair-bound college students found that humor, especially concerning bladder and bowel problems, was a key method of coping with distress. As one respondent said, ‘We have to laugh at ourselves to make life easier.’”


However, to a two-year-old, it is a big deal that they can’t eat the packing peanuts from an Amazon box or that their dad shaved their beard. It seems like the end of the world. It is important to see that it is okay to laugh at themselves and their mistakes. 


Yes, children should learn to laugh at themselves, and that type of learning should first occur in the safety of the family,” said Hershberg and Willingham. “But those early lessons should concern some harmless folly the child can understand, and a tantrum signals that it’s the wrong moment.”


While watching someone who is trying to make a fruit salad and falls off the bench and the bowl of blueberries falls with them causes hysterical laughing, it is important to understand that these are actual people and that their accidents are viewed by millions of people. 


I will still get humor out of these videos because they are funny and sometimes people post them to show the world what they are up to and what goes through their mind. Sometimes you come across a video unintentionally, it causes for mindless scrolling to find another one. 


Hersberg and Willingham said that it is important to laugh with your child rather than laughing at them. It shows there is a safe environment for the child to make mistakes and mess up. This healthy environment causes for a safe place for children to grow up in. 


In the end, I will never not laugh at these videos. They’re unexpected, comical and they make tough days a bit better. Psychologically, it has been explained to why we as humans laugh at children’s dramatic tantrums. We use humor as a way to stop the physiological alarms that go off when hear a child screaming. Humor is a way to reverse the effects of the fight-or-flight on our body. That is why we laugh at others misfortunes. We have all been on both sides of it, laughing with others because of their actions or your own.