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Why You Should Never Get in a Prank War

November 17, 2009

I do love a good prank war. My most memorable was from my freshman year in college. Myself and a few friends from Frohman-Robb (my freshman dorm, also affectionately known as “Frobb”) got in a prank war with some friends from our neighboring dorm Little (possibly the worst name for a dorm ever). I don’t know how it started, but I know we did everything from change their voicemail to sound like a gay-sex hotline to tape their door shut. They then retaliated by placing old meat in our air vents, and other such pranks. I’m all for prank wars. I think they’re hilarious. Just be careful with who you start them with.

A perfect example is the prank war currently going on between two writers at a website called Collegehumor.com. It all started a few years ago when a guy named Streeter pranked his friend Amir by splicing some audio of him and his girlfriend having sex onto a song Amir had been continually listening to on his computer. From there it quickly escalated, and continued to get dirtier and meaner with every phase. Not only did the pranks become more elaborate, but they also acquired funding for their pranks from the Collegehumor Ad department. Ax Body spray offered to give money to fund their war as long as they plugged them somewhere in the video. I highly recommend you check out the progression of the prank war here (start at the bottom, and work your way up. You won’t be sorry I promise). I’m half think it’s all fake, but it sure feels real. And if you don’t have the patience to sit through eight videos at least check out the most recent. It’s pretty vicious, but extremely funny. Check it out here (I can’t get the video to work here). 

But when I step back and think about it the internet is drastically changing the world of pranking (much like everything else in the world). Pre-internet era your old prank was just shared by just you and your victim(whomever you shared the story with later). Today- thanks to the internet and cheap camcorders the entire world can be audience to your prank. Just do a quick ‘prank’ search on YouTube and you’ll be amazed by how many results you find. These videos are great for a cheap laugh or getting ideas for your own pranks. But at the end of the day I don’t think these videos necessarily contribute “good” to the world. 

I think these videos teach you the methods to prank people, without insight as to how it’s effecting the “victims”. I feel the same way about mixed martial arts these days. Many mixed martial arts classes these days teach you effective combative techniques without the ethics or spirituality martial arts of old used to. I can envision many people pranking their friends, girl friends, or parents, just for the sake of video taping the reaction and embarrassing them on the internet. This actually has a term these days, it’s called “cyber-bullying”. (The center for safe and responsible internet use actually has some information on it if you’re interested) Anyways, I don’t have anything wrong with pranks. I think they are often hilarious if done with good and harmless intention. My worry is how easy it is to embarrass a prank-target these days. I don’t worry about the new tools, I worry about the users. I know when I was a kid I did all sorts of mean things without thinking. And now with higher stakes I worry about the victims. If you need the perfect example check out this video of a kid “pranking” his brother by placing a hidden camera in his room shortly before he goes on an adolescent rage. That kids life is now probably ruined, and is now known as the kid who jammed a… well check out the video yourself.

The internet also adds “validity” to any and every prankster. This is a common issue in the world of the internet these days. Back in the day you had to have a well thought-out opinion or some kind of talent if you were to be published. With the internet today every joker has a voice. This discussion is quickly getting more complex, and intense, so I’ll stop. But I think it’s an interesting thing to think about. How has the internet given validity to people hurting/embarrassing others for the sake of entertainment? 

But despite the evils I think the internet has created in the world of pranks I also think it’s created a wonderful new generation of pranks. Through the communicative properties of the internet pranks known as “flash mobs” have begun to appear. These are formed when large groups of people quickly gather in an area, perform some unified action, then disappear. I think this new generation of pranking (dare I call it art?) is creative, funny, and shows the great potential that humans have when we all join together for a common good.

Here is a new video from one of my favorite flash mob groups. They’re called ‘Improv Everywhere‘, and are probably best known for setting up the “no-pants” subway car in NYC. Anyways, here is their most recent prank: “I Love Lunch.” Enjoy. 

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