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April Fools!... is over.

(Sat Apr 2 00:56:11 2011)

April Fools is not my favorite holiday.

When I was a kid, as the end of March neared, I began thinking of what great practical joke I would play. Usually, it ended up as nothing more exciting than strings connecting doorknobs and light switches, but occasionally I would come up with a pretty decent prank.

Back then, my concept of April Fools was one of innocence; I thought the idea was that of practical jokes and the occasional stunt. Zip-tying chairs together? April Fools! Gluing a penny to the floor? April Fools! Lying through your teeth as a joke? ...not April Fools. If you look around, there are a few "here's what happened on April Fools" things going around. Webcomics will have some blatantly obvious joke - some speech about the comic being too much work, and turning it over to another artist (or stepping back on artwork, or storyline, or whatever), with a terrible comic attached to the message. Or, companies like Google and ThinkGeek will create products that sound - at first - like real products. Opera "Facial Gestures" was one of my favorites a few years ago. And in the case of ThinkGeek, some of the products actually come to fruition. Early in the last century, there were a few pranksters that managed to convince people that Manhattan Island was sinking, and that they needed to dig up one side to prop up the other. Or still others that created crop circles, or even the Loch Ness Monster.

Slapstick pranks (like the doorknob-to-light-switch joke) and funny products (like ThinkGeek's Gunny iPhone case) make people laugh. Gags like the sinking of Manhattan Island are funny, too, because they show how gullible people can be. Even then, the people involved usually laugh about it once they find out. Pranks like crop circles may not be quite as humorous, but they make people think; there are countless ideas about the Loch Ness Monster, and several scientific explorations of the loch have pushed the understanding of it.

But then... then there are the "jokes" that make me cringe inside. People claiming to be pregnant, or having gotten a new job, or even someone having been in an accident - and then coming back hours later and saying "Aprils Fools!"
Why do I have a problem with this? Because it's hurtful. Here's a simple comparison, so you can see exactly what I'm getting at:

The Manhattan Island prank hinged on something that's part of every human, to some degree - gullibility. If anyone had stopped to think, they would have realized how silly it would be for one end of an island to sink - especially since the "cure" was to dig up the other end to "even it out." Once people realized they had been had, they shared a sheepish laugh, realizing that they had been duped with information that was obviously a fabrication.

Earlier today, a friend posted on Facebook that she was pregnant again (with twins!), which was followed by a few statements of congratulations. You see, that prank hinged on something else that is a part of every human - trust. If anyone were to read that post on any other day, they would have been likely to believe the person who had written it, as she is a trustworthy person. However, because it is a certain day of the year, several people didn't believe it, and rightly so; it was a complete falsehood. But unlike Manhattan Island, there was no information against it; it wasn't an obvious fabrication.

So what does all this lead to? Distrust. Anything that happens on April 1st is automatically assumed to be a prank. I've heard of people who won a lottery - or even people who had relatives die - laugh and hang up the phone. I myself had a meeting today with good news, and several people asked if it was really just a prank. I almost didn't trust an email from my own boss about the price of our product, just because of today's date. Would I trust it any other day? Of course!

Not everyone tells outright lies, of course; Google and ThinkGeek, practical jokers and most children I know would rather do something silly with no chance of hurting anyone. But there are always those who think that betraying trust is funny. I don't think it is. If you tell a bit of a story, and dupe a few gullible people into believing something silly, it alls ends up with no feelings hurt. But if you willing tell outright lies, hoping that people will believe you, just for the thrill of telling them that they were stupid to trust you... somehow, I wonder if you'll do it again on a different day, and end up the fool yourself.

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This blag is tagged: Aprilfools, Joke, Prank, All