We all need to laugh, we get it. But at what expense? Far from a case of humor vs. humor on TikTok, it’s time we put an end to insensitive and irresponsible social media pranks.
Oh, was that supposed to be funny?
We get it; everyone needs a good laugh, now more than ever especially. Whether it is an escape from the feeling of the walls closing in on us or an exhale from the punishing effects of the pandemic, we turn to humor for some semblance of joy in what is quite frankly a dreadful and dismal time. From off-the-cuff storytelling, witty banters, and practical jokes, there is a lot to source from the internet and social media, especially on TikTok, which chases away that hovering cloud of gloom and doom with a fit of giggles. However, while mostly harmless, there is a concerning amount of content saturating our timelines that are honestly taking things too far. Sure, pranks can be funny, but at what expense?
Perhaps a progression encouraged by the era of MTV’s Punk’d and the local iteration, Victim, social media pranks have been a point of concern for a long time now. You’d think that the pandemic would have instilled a sense of propriety and curb the proliferation of mindless and insensitive pranks and punch lines for the sake of likes and clout, but the complete opposite happened.
In March of last year, just when we were first grappling with the effects and fear of the coronavirus, a vlogger in Legazpi City, Albay, was arrested following one of his filmed pranks, where he pretended to pass out in the middle of a mall while wearing a face mask, even throwing in a few body twitches for impact. Meanwhile, in August, YouTuber Zeinab Harake earned the ire of social media when she published a prank video telling her family that she was “positive” for COVID-19. Inappropriate and irresponsible, especially for someone with a sizable following, this was and still is nothing to joke about.
One would assume that at this point, the world would have somehow learned its lesson. From foolish pandemic parties to unnecessary flaunting of privilege on social media, every situation was an opportunity to be and do better. Unfortunately, not for so-called content creators who continue to resort to ill-conceived and maliciously intended pranks to drum up engagement on their social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Recently, RestoPH, the association that supports Philippine restaurants and their employees, expressed disappointment, concern, and sadness over an apparent sustained prank that has gone too far. In the TikTok video posted by influencers Chuck and Joe, “they asked for additional servings of Togarashi powder, which they filled up jars with, hid in a bag, and surreptitiously brought out with these instructions: ‘do not make eye contact’ and ‘no one will ever know,’” the statement read. “Their intention to deceive was crystal clear.” Taking advantage of the system of the Japanese restaurant (and apparently even a superstore chain), the members of RestoPH have voiced out outrage over the TikTok video, “which may encourage others, especially impressionable youth, to emulate the prank.”
PLEASE SHARE, THANK YOU! 🙏🏻 Dear F&B Industry Partners, Chefs, Writers, Suppliers, Content Creators: please help…Posted by Resto PH on Monday, February 1, 2021
“We wish it to be made clear that we consider what they did as a form of theft; and once promoted on social media, theft no longer becomes petty. Restaurant losses are not casual matters to be used for a ‘Social Experiment,’” they say, which couldn’t be more obvious in a time of crisis for all. “We, the members of RestoPH appreciate influencers’ contributions, but the quest for ‘views’ and ‘hits’ must be balanced with integrity. May we also enjoin other social media personalities to avoid creating content that clearly disrespects an industry and its workers. We are hopeful of the public’s support, as these kinds of acts should not be emulated for virality and ‘comedy.’”
So, What Is It Really?
Before being set to private, the TikTok video was reported to have amassed 2.5 million views. Relenting to a public clamor, this was followed by what many online call a non-apologetic apology on TikTok. “Hindi po namin ini-encourage na magnakaw, ine-encourage po namin kayo na ‘wag magtapon at ‘wag magsayang,” the pair says. “Actually hindi nga po siya considered na pagnanakaw or stealing dahil wala naman po kaming inuwi na hindi sa amin.” Furthering their defense, Chuck and Joe claim that “Puwede naman po talaga i-takeout iyon pero it wouldn’t be as funny as ipapa-takeout namin siya sa kanilang lalagyan. And that was part of the humor na hindi po na-gets ng iba.“
With a platform and audience accorded to you in that scope, a duty of mindfulness, care, and responsibility must be exercised at all times. People are watching and consuming your content, the least you can do is be of good influence. You know, how the word is actually defined in the dictionary and not some flimsy buzzword further diluted by social media marketing.
“Gayunpaman, humihingi po kami ng pasensya kung hindi naging malinaw ‘yung humor ng video namin na naging dahilan upang masaktan at ma-offend ang iba.”
Leave Out The Laughs
Now, if it was meant to be funny, as social media pranks supposedly are, how come no one is laughing? No, the humor isn’t lost on the audience, it is this entitlement and lack of better judgment that makes it terribly unfunny. And in the middle of the pandemic, really?
Therein lies the great danger of creating content just for the sake of. This notorious pursuit of being viral on social media has obviously gone on way too far for too long. There is nothing with a joke, especially if it is good and smart, but if the pranks run the slightest risk of deliberately and decisively inconviencing businesses, damaging property, and endangering lives, then the claim to fame isn’t worth it.
It has to be said, these over-the-top and truthfully stupid social media pranks have to stop. Leave the jokes to the comedians, because honestly, if you have to try too hard to wring a few giggles from a bit, then you aren’t as funny as you think you are.
So, who’s laughing now?