Humor sets people apart in a way that nothing else can. Each person has certain triggers that strike him or her as particularly comical. I find myself using sarcasm more often than other types of humor. While plenty of people use sarcasm to degrade someone else, I would argue that there are plenty of instances in which sarcasm serves other purposes. The most common reasons for sarcasm that I have witnessed are for defensive purposes and for dry humor. Sarcasm is “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The definition exhibits a paradox, in that the same technique can elicit two very different results. We can use the same type of humor to both insult someone, as well as to make someone laugh. From my experience, people generally feel strongly in one direction or the other.
Many people use sarcasm as a way to hide pain or insecurity. When reality difficult to face, it can make light of the situation. In a stressful situation, an individual can easily use sarcasm to make it sound like there is no problem and that one can handle it with ease. For an insecure person, sarcasm can act as a disguise used to feign confidence.
Dry humor is comical when used properly, but some may mistake it for seriousness. It uses irony to pull the humor from any situation. When a statement is not seen as a joke, an explanation takes the fun right out of it.
As a very sarcastic person, I have experienced more than my fair share of awkward moments when someone does not understand that I am being sarcastic. I tend to forget that not everyone on the planet knows and understands my humor. Some may have experienced embarrassment when someone misunderstands their humor: the blank stare followed by the look of pure confusion whereafter uncomfortable laughter ensues. Maybe I will learn to filter my humor based on how well I know a person, but maybe not.
Additionally, many people have trouble portraying sarcasm in conversations that are not face-to-face. Over the phone, sarcasm loses its effect because of lack of facial expressions. Over text, it is nearly impossible to read sarcasm. I have always wished we had a sarcasm emoticon or another such symbol to express irony without overtly saying “this isn’t serious.”
An important aspect to consider when using sarcasm is the setting in which it is used. Certain contexts are not appropriate for this type of humor, including the workplace and classroom. In professional settings, determining your audience is difficult and someone could easily misconstrue your words as serious. Additionally, sarcasm can sometimes come across as arrogant and unprofessional.
While there are plenty of struggles and difficulties with sarcasm, I use it daily and find it hilarious when others do the same. I do my best to filter out offensive portions of sarcasm and use it only in ways that do not put others down. Dry humor can relieve tension from a situation and bring a smile to someone’s face. Everyone needs a healthy dose of sarcasm to find the humor even in the most frustrating situations.
Miranda Cloyd Columnist
Contact Miranda Cloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org