(IAN HOOTON / Science Photo…)
Early yesterday morning, I played a pretty terrible April Fools’ Day prank on myself. Nursing a lingering groin pull, I accidentally applied Icy Hot to my nether region.
But hot-and-cold genitals were somehow less painful than the April Fools’ Day pranks that I rubbed up against on social media.
Case in point: a friend changed her Facebook relationship status to “engaged.” She, in her mid- to late 20s, has been dating a younger-than-21 year old for just over a month. And after a flood of comments, she doubled down: a photo of a ring. And the status change remains posted on her profile.
She got more than 200 likes on her post and more than 70 congratulatory comments – numbers that make this journalist slightly envious.
The gag wasn’t the only dramatic April Fools' Day announcement on my social media feeds. Pregnancies, career changes and other fake life events overshadowed cute puppies, bar photos (who parties on a Tuesday?) and other real-life events.
Facebook killed April Fools’ Day.
What my not-really-engaged friend failed to consider is the permanency – or perhaps the damage control required – of her fake announcement. Hours later, she revealed the truth by only commenting on the status. Even today, however, she has received notes of congratulations from friends and family she’s swindled. Her public – nearly 2,500 virtual friends – is even less engaged than she is. No one is watching her every social-media move. I would guess that the majority of her Facebook following still thinks she is a true bride-to-be.
The lessons here are similar to the age-old overshare and privacy pitfalls associated with social media: Think before you post. Remember who’s watching. Think about the post-prank clean up.
In my mind, April Fools’ Day cranks are intended to be slapstick – simple, stupid humor. Marriage announcements and other such mockeries employ the it’s-only-funny-because-it’s-true model. In that way, making fun of major life events may send the wrong message – a "my life isn't as good as I want it to be" message.
So social-media-ites, let’s make a deal: I’ll stop telling you about my Icy Hot woes if you give me back April Fools’ Day next year.
Instead of ringing wedding bells, here are some actually funny options: Go tie a rubber band around your kitchen-sink sprayer. Saran wrap your sig-other’s car. Put a whoopee cushion on your boss’ chair. Film these and post them to social media. But don’t ruin life announcements. Please, for the love of Icy Hot.