Every group of friends, or "Entourage," if you will, has its own unique dynamic.
However, in a broader sense, there are usually a few similar archetypes that can be found within each group.
You know, there’s always at least one person who acts as the “face” of the group -- the Vinny Chase. There are groups of friends that consist of a few funny guys, your “Johnny Dramas,” and at least one person who knows how to get things done, say, E, for instance.
Then, of course, there’s typically that one person that everyone likes to rag on -- aka the "Turtle."
I'm aware "Entourage" hasn't been on the air since 2011, but it works for this analogy. See, you might think the character Turtle wasn’t well-respected, given the amount of punchlines he was the target of. But anyone who understands your typical guy group’s dynamic would understand that wasn't true.
In fact, a lot of times, this type of teasing is truly a sign of love and closeness. When your group of friends decides to give you a hard time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like you -- especially with guys. In fact, it usually means the opposite.
My group of guy friends barely knows how to interact without using some offensive term to refer to one another, and some sarcastic comment to follow it up. Is it the most compassionate way to go about friendships? Eh, probably not. But for us, and many other groups, it’s simply what feels the most natural.
Although the person who usually catches the most heat -- or gets “ragged on” the most -- within a group of friends may appear to be the lowest on the totem pole of friendship, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, The New York Times published an interesting piece comparing the differences between teasing among friends and other forms of bullying.
When a group of friends targets one person to be the focal point of inside jokes, it's called “prosocial teasing,” as explained by KJ Dell’Antonia.
While other forms of teasing and bullying will usually be detrimental to a person’s psyche -- especially at younger ages -- prosocial teasing, on the other hand, comes with a series of unique benefits.
According to Dell’Antonia, prosocial teasing “can be playful, reveal affiliations and help both the teaser and the teased feel closer.” In other words, when we're teasing that one friend, we’re actually revealing how close we are in the first place.
After all, if an entire group of friends truly didn’t like one person, they would probably stop hanging out with him or her all together, rather than hanging around solely to make his or her life miserable.
The key to all of this is that both parties understand that notion of mutual love. If the guy in the group who’s always getting teased doesn’t understand that it’s coming from a place of love, that's bullying, not prosocial teasing.
So if there’s one person in your own group of friends who fits into this category, make sure that after you finish messing around with him or her, everyone is laughing, including the person being teased. If you’re all not laughing, it’s probably not as “funny” as you thought it was.
As Dell’Antonia writes, “If there’s any message there beyond 'I love you, I know you, and you’re one of mine,' we should be wary.”
When we tease someone with good intentions, we're indirectly showing our affection for him or her. This is why guys always teased the girl in elementary school who we had a crush on, instead of showing up to her classroom with roses.
Peter Gray, PhD, in an article for Psychology Today, backs the idea that teasing helps reinforce friendships by poking fun at one's flaws as a way of showing someone that he or she is accepted as a friend despite them:
To know someone well is to know [his or her] weaknesses as well as strengths, and teasing can be a playful way of expressing that knowledge and thereby reinforcing the friendship.
Gray also goes on to explain how teasing can be used to reinforce humility in other people and deflate big or overbearing egos as a means of maintaining "social control" in a friendship or situation. Rather than openly criticize, teasing, Gray says, is actually more effective in pointing out a poor habit because it gives the recipient a choice on how to react and change:
Direct criticism tends to provoke argument and defensiveness. In contrast, teasing acts at an emotional level that bypasses our verbal defensiveness, and it gives us a choice of how to respond.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, teasing is a form of testing your relationship with someone, as well as his or her societal skills. While it can be used in dating as a means of assessing one's humility, teasing among friends serves the same purpose outside the realm of romance.
Basically, all of my friends like to occasionally act like dicks to each other.
Still, there’s never a doubt in any of our minds about the ties that bind. If we’re calling one of our friends an “assh*le,” we’re only doing so because this dude is OUR assh*le -- and we’re allowed to.
If anyone else tried to “tease” that one friend the way the rest of the group did, it would be everyone in the group’s problem.