Drama, baby, drama! About Coping Mechanisms in Teenage Bullying

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Given the fact that I’ve produced a game that is all about bullying as my bachelor’s thesis, I’m now more aware of the topic. Even more so given the fact that the game in its current form is still more a proof of concept rather than a proper game. Since I plan to finish and release the game at some point, I keep an eye open for any developments and insights on the field.

It is therefore extremely interesting to stumble on a recent study by Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd called The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics. The authors argue that teenagers are wary to call bullying what it is. Instead, they opt to call it “drama”.

Using drama, the teenagers are able not to get pushed into the role of the victim, instead staying above the situation:

Dismissing a conflict that’s really hurting their feelings as drama lets teenagers demonstrate that they don’t care about such petty concerns. They can save face while feeling superior to those tormenting them by dismissing them as desperate for attention. Or, if they’re the instigators, the word drama lets teenagers feel that they’re participating in something innocuous or even funny, rather than having to admit that they’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Drama allows them to distance themselves from painful situations.

Obviously, this does not solve the underlying problem. Bullying still happens, just by another name. Feelings still get hurt, and this needs to be addressed. Yet, it is something that I will have to keep in mind when developing the story further. The good thing is that I already went into that direction, actively pushing the story to emulate some TV teen drama series. The game might to be so much about bullying, but instead about drama – and still teach how to deal with it.

Read more about the paper and its background over on Danah Boyd’s blog.

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