I really don’t like April Fool’s Day.
It’s not (entirely) that I’m a curmudgeony old man who doesn’t like fun. I do (or I tell myself that when I’m playing two-player video games by myself, just so I can rib my imaginary friend Steve about how badly I beat him). My problem with AFD is that the execution of a prank is a very delicate thing, one that requires care and forethought and that is something that doesn’t really happen too often.
There seem to be two types of April Fool’s Day jokes: the really mundane and boring jokes that are wastes of time. These are usually jokes that everybody sees coming and they’re as harmless as they are bland. This is usually the realm of the cheap joke-store gags like joy buzzers, whoopie cushions, or Rick Rolling.
A lot of the pranks you see online are this way. Joking posts on Facebook (especially of the psuedo-ironic variety), flagrantly false news reports, and other such phenomena can be fun (I loved CNN reporting on the potential African zombie outbreak half a dozen years ago…back when CNN had actual reporters, but that’s another issue). The problem with them is that they’re predictable, to the point of becoming disruptive. It’s gotten to the point that we expect these false reports, so ANY report that comes out today we treat with suspicion. So every news story needs to be fact-checked and double-cross-examined. It turns into just a waste of time.
The other, thankfully somewhat less common, prank is more elaborate but also more disruptive and potentially even hurtful. See, the problem with pranks is that they can cross the line from fooling around into bullying and even being harmful. A bucket of water over the doorway is fun to some, but it sucks for the person who gets splashed and then has no clean clothes to wear around the office. What’s worse is if his/her cell phone gets splashed and is ruined. A ‘harmless prank’ has now just cost this person some (potentially serious) cash. That’s not funny, nor is it in ‘good fun’.
A prank is largely about lying to people. And while in the right context and executed the right way, they can be a hysterical experience shared between friends, they are the sorts of things that require forethought and consideration. Granted, a good prank is about taking somebody down a peg, but just a single peg. You aren’t trying to humiliate them (or, you shouldn’t be).
And that’s why I don’t like April Fool’s Day. You’re either wasting everybody’s time, or you bullying somebody. There are exceptions, sure, that can be fun. But the rest of the time, it’s a day that’s disruptive at its best and mean-spirited at its worst.
On the other hand, all that Easter Candy is on sale…