Generally speaking, April Fool’s Day presents three possibilities: Annoying pranks that ultimately inspire a laugh, horrible pranks that go terribly awry, and the opportunity for brands to remind us that they should never tweet.
If you wake up on April 1 with the sneaky ambition to commit an April Fool’s gag, make sure you aren’t going to wreak unnecessary havoc. After all, there are good jokes and bad jokes, even (or especially) when it comes to this national day of mischief. It’s important to know what not to do when planning your shenanigans.
Don’t joke about death or illness
April Fool’s Day doesn’t give you cart blanche to be emotionally manipulative. To that end, don’t mess with anyone’s emotions by claiming a relative has died or that a loved one has cancer. Calling a friend or family member and claiming that someone has been involved in a tragic accident isn’t funny, and if you do something like that, you should really question your motivations. What’s endearing about potentially bringing someone to tears under false pretenses? Nothing, actually!
Don’t broadcast false life updates to the world on social media
As a general rule, keep April Fool’s jokes off the internet. Posting them only broadens your audience, heightening the potential for false information to spread unchecked. It’ll be even harder to erase any potential damage once the false information has been digested by your friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform. If you follow your nefarious status update with a correction that allows your audience in on the gag (“Haha, we aren’t actually divorcing!”), there’s a chance many people won’t see it.
Do you really want half of your Facebook friends to think you’ve lost your arm in a freak wakeboarding accident? The answer is no.
No false good news updates either, please
As with bad news, refrain from spreading falsehoods masquerading as good tidings. Don’t tell an eager high school kid that they got into their dream school when they didn’t, and don’t call someone out of the blue to inform them that you’ve bought them a puppy when in fact you haven’t. There’s something inherently cruel in building someone up only to see their euphoria drain away when they’re confronted with reality. The general premise here: don’t be a jerk.
What makes for an appropriate jokes is subjective, but they can work
When it comes to making a joke that doesn’t cross any boundaries, you have to know your audience. This is something my colleague Meghan Moravcik Walbert recently explained in relation to children, but the same lesson applies to adults. Is it cool to concoct some culinary pranks, like, say, dressing cotton balls up in chocolate and giving it to one of your friends? Sure, I suppose, just make sure there’ll be no allergic reactions or choking hazards.
It’s good to understand the kind of relationship you have with someone before pranking them. Is this person likely to have an emotional reaction to being the recipient of a prank, or do they appreciate elaborate plots to sow some tomfoolery, even if it’s at their expense?
Choose your targets wisely, and remember: an April Fool’s prank is never worth ruining someone’s day.