Pranks can be funny, but a lot of them are bad.

There are basically two kinds of ok pranks:

  • Pranks that you reasonably expect the target to find funny
  • Pranks that make someone who has unreasonable amounts of power look ridiculous

If the first kind of prank goes bad:

  • Don’t tell the person they should learn to take a joke
  • Apologize
  • If there’s something you can fix, fix it
  • Don’t play that kind of prank on that person again

Some pranks that nearly always go bad:

  • Pranks played on individual people you have a lot of power over (eg: a child, an employee, a patient)
  • False promises (eg: convincing someone you’re going to let them borrow your car to go to a concert they really care about, then giving them your toy car and laughing at them when they’re ready to leave)
  • Breaking someone’s stuff
  • Invading someone’s space if they’re being stalked or have a history of being stalked or abused (eg: If someone is being stalked, planting a bunch of flamingos on their lawn is likely to be frightening in an unfunny way. Leaving flamingos inside their house is likely to be terrifying. )
  • Tricking someone into eating something they don’t want to eat (Tricking vegetarians into eating meat is not funny. Neither is tricking Jews or Muslims into eating pork. Neither is tricking someone into eating something they’re allergic to or intolerant of, even if you think they’re lying. Neither is tricking someone into eating bugs or dirt or something else they’d consider disgusting. Just don’t do it.)
  • Exposing someone to something they have a phobia or or find triggering. Eg: if you know your friend is terrified of spiders, don’t leave a fake spider on the kitchen table to scare them.
  • Sexualized pranks (particularly if you’re a man playing them on a woman).

If you’re playing a prank to undermine someone’s unreasonable authority:

  • Don’t hurt innocent bystanders
  • Don’t do things that make you look worse than them
  • Don’t insult them for the wrong reasons (eg: If someone’s abusive and also fat, don’t make a big banner mocking them for being fat. Partly because this hurts fat innocent bystanders)

All of this is why I hate pranks. (I refuse to acknowledge April 1st as anything other than Fred and George Weasley’s birthday.) A lot of what people refer to as “pranks” are really just excuses to be mean to people, and then blame the victim for being hurt.

Yes. It’s not ok to be mean to people for fun. It’s especially not ok to be mean and then blame victims for being hurt.

Invading people’s space is bad whether or not they have a history of being stalked. It doesn’t matter that you broke into my house merely to wrap my couch in bubble wrap— you still broke into my house, and I’m never going to feel safe around you again, or stop worrying about what you might do next.

Humiliating people in front of others is also not funny, no matter how harmless the prank is.

I think you are probably right. Definitely, if you wouldn’t normally have the right to be somewhere without permission, going there for the purpose of pranking someone isn’t ok either. And when you’re talking about someone who has been abused, it is important to be even more careful about not invading space, even in situations that might not feel particularly invasive to most people.



Pretending to forget someone’s birthday to build up to the surprise party, as a prime example.

Another example: my parents once got me a MacBook for Christmas, which was amazing and sweet. But on Christmas morning they hid the box and purposefully wrapped a few paltry (compared to everyone else) presents that they knew I wouldn’t care for and would make me think they’d been ignoring me.

So on Christmas morning everyone around me was unwrapping thoughtful loving gifts and I had a condescending religious book (I’m an atheist) and a cheap Bluetooth that I knew for a fact my father had gotten for free and wouldn’t even work with my phone.

Maybe with a different parent and kid this would be funny, but I have anxiety and all kinds of complexes surrounding believing my parents don’t love and accept me and one day they’ll just give up on me so this was heartbreaking to me.

Of course after everyone finished opening their presents they brought my real present out, it became clear it had all been a joke and they had been thinking of me, and I felt a little better.

But it didn’t take away the trauma of those moments. And afterwards most of my family came up to me individually at different points and apologized even though I never said anything. Apparently they could see on my face how genuinely hurt I was and immediately regretted their plan. So it’s all okay now. But like, those moments were the stuff of my nightmares, not because of the gifts, but because I thought my family was rejecting me.

Even if you think you’re doing it out of love, making someone feel unloved is a terrible prank, and a terrible set up for any nice thing you are planning to do.

Everything above is important.

I have a phobia story to add.

A few of my friends are aware that I have a sticker phobia — which, I know, is absolutely ridiculous, and I’ve got just enough in me to get me through the day with regular occurrences (labels on fruit, etc). This is a long-standing phobia/aversion, though.

When I was in grade six, around the period that I did have friends (quote-unquote), we were going upstairs into class and one of them said “We have a surprise for you”. And since I wholeheartedly did NOT trust these people, my mind immediately jumped to stickers. I happened to be right. They had put them in the four corners of our desks that were touching each other. I pitched a fit and wouldn’t come back into the classroom until they removed them from my desk. But they wouldn’t take them off of their own desks, so I had to deal with that for the rest of the year.

None of them apologized.

That shit isn’t funny, no matter how small it seems to you. It just makes you look like an asshole.

I have a few very serious phobias, anxiety, and a high degree of empathy so I hate pranks.  

Pranks usually play on the target’s feelings in one of two ways: 

1) Good to bad

Person 1: “Guess what? You just won $10,000!”

Person 2: “Oh my god, I did?!” Feels immense relief to be able to pay rent/tuition/debt/kid’s medical bills. ”I’m so happy and grateful!”

Person 1: “Just kidding, no you didn’t. You’re still broke as ever. Hahaha.” 

Person 2: Sobs internally but has to fake a smile because it’s “only a joke.”

This shit is fucking cruel. 

2) Bad to “good”

Person 1: “Sad news: your dog died last night.” 

Person 2: “Oh my god, NO! I can’t believe it! I’m so heartbroken right now. I wish I could have just gotten to play with him just one last time.” 

Person 1: “Well you can! Cuz I was just kidding—he’s not really dead.” 

Person 2: Relieved, but still hurting from the unnecessary and intense feelings of devastation moments earlier. And still has to fake a smile because it’s “only a joke.” 

This shit is fucking cruel. 

The only acceptable kind of joke: 

3) Good to even better 

Person 1: “Guess what? You just won $10,000!”

Person 2: “Oh my god, I did?!” Feels immense relief to be able to pay rent/tuition/debt/kid’s medical bills. ”I’m so happy and grateful!”

Person 1: “Actually, you just won $100,000! And a lifetime supply of Reese’s cups!” 

Person 2: Feels nothing but genuine happiness. 

I do not understand why some people think it’s funny or acceptable to deliberately upset people, violate their boundaries, or otherwise emotionally terrorize them. Fuck that.