By Rachel Gilinski
April begins the same way every year. Jokes and pranks are made at others’ expense, and if you are on the receiving end of such a prank, you can’t show that your feelings are hurt because it’s “April Fool’s Day”!
Most would agree that hurting people is bad and that it’s insensitive to hurt another’s feelings. For some reason, though, once the date on the calendar hits 4/1, that premise goes straight out the window. Hurting people’s feelings is no longer termed as such. Now it’s simply called a “prank.” Sharing devastating news or traumatizing others is fine, as long as you laugh and exclaim, “April Fools!” Since when does the day of the month serve as a reasonable excuse for hurting others? Why are we so quick to forget that other people have feelings and emotions?
The first day of April isn’t the only time that people are prone to pranking others, nor is it the only time when pranks can go too far or be harmful. Pranks are prevalent in our society, and for some reason, people don’t realize how harmful they can be to those involved, nor do they seem to care. The problem is that people like pranks. They enjoy pulling them on others and like watching the behind-the-scenes processes when others do it. Prank videos on YouTube can individually reach hundreds of millions of views; TikTok videos of people pranking their friends or family go viral. Why are viewers so eager to see people getting upset and have their feelings hurt? Furthermore, why are creators so eager to embarrass their loved ones just to get those views?
One might argue that most of these videos are staged. Yet the harm they create exists nonetheless, staged or otherwise. These prank videos show viewers, often immature, impressionable kids, that it’s okay to hurt the people you care about, as long as it’s funny. We have somehow created a culture that prioritizes online fame over the thoughts and emotions of real, living people. With every new public prank, we are further influencing viewers to disregard others’ feelings.
I won’t pretend that April Fool’s Day, or even pranks as a whole, are the sole reason why our society is so severely lacking in empathy. It is, however, one symptom of the larger problem, highlighting how comfortable we are in tormenting others for the sake of our own entertainment. Pranks are likely not the reason why individuals in our society tend to be apathetic toward others’ feelings. But the fact that these videos are popular at all, videos in which betrayals become a joke or emotional confessions mean nothing, is alarming. How much apathy, or even sadism, is present in our society for videos like this to be relished by millions? With videos like these rising in popularity and with every video subconsciously convincing viewers that it’s fine to lie and hurt others as long as you call it a prank, how much more prevalent will this apathy become?