So now that April Fool’s Day is over and we can stop playing Pokemon and go back to our lives, I thought I would give my thoughts on the holiday. I actually have two conflicting opinions on whether April Fool’s Day is a good thing or not. On the one hand, it’s a useful way to teach the value of skeptical thought. But on the other, playing pranks on other people without their consent is really not cool.
April Fool’s Day is the one day a year where everyone has to be a skeptic. For this one day, everyone approaches every claim with the thought, “is this real?” For one day, everyone is aware that just because you hear something from someone (even a trusted source or a news organization) that doesn’t mean it’s true. For this one day, everyone does a little background research on anything they hear on the internet. And for this one day, everyone appreciates, at least a little, the virtue of being a skeptic.
And I wish people would take this attitude every day. I wish that every day, people would wonder if a dubious story is real before they spread it everywhere. I wish that every day, people would check their sources, question their sources, and apply some basic skepticism before believing things. And April Fool’s Day is a useful way of showing people the benefits of proper skepticism. If people can be convinced that applying skepticism to all claims is a good idea on April Fool’s Day, it probably won’t be very hard to convince them that applying skepticism to all claims is a good idea on every other day.
On the other hand, pranks suck. Pranking people is an exercise in trying to convince someone of something that isn’t true. It’s being deliberately dishonest for laughs. The entire intent of pranking is to get one up on someone who is vulnerable. Pranks, even seemingly harmless pranks, can hurt people. They can also backfire and hurt the pranksters, too.
And for what? A few laughs? Is that really worth the risk that your prank can go disastrously wrong? Even if everyone involves learns to be a little more skeptical in the future? I honestly don’t think so. The internet is full of stories of lives being ruined because of some prank, and I don’t think that’s worth the little bit of extra skepticism. I’m going to come down on the side of April Fool’s Day being a bad idea. We should stop doing it.