Since April Fool’s day has just gone, I wonder how many of you fell victim to a hoax in the online world? I know I did.
My friend, Donna, is on Facebook and has about 500 friends. She has been with her partner for about 23 years, so it was a bit of a surprise when she suddenly changed her status to “single”. I flicked her an email asking her if she was OK and what was going on….. not a thing as it turns out!
She did it as an April Fool’s joke. When she turned her mobile and computer back on about 24 hours later, she had about 20 text messages and 100 email messages, not to mention all the Facebook threads! Surprisingly, only about 1 or 2 people picked up that this could have been a hoax (admittedly I was not one of them!).
But it amazed me at how widespread her April Fool’s prank actually was. With 500 friends, that’s a lot of simultaneous pranking. Usually, you’re restricted to just one or two friends on whom you’re playing your joke. I guess social media has changed all that.
Of course, the BBC still goes down in history as pulling the greatest April Fool’s joke of all time. I wasn’t even born when this prank was pulled, but I still know about it (thanks once again to the web). The Spaghetti Tree Hoax was a 3 minute broadcast by the BBC on April Fool’s Day in 1957, on their popular current affairs program Panorama. Being a reputable program, many people fell for the story that spaghetti grows on trees and that this year was shaping up to be a bumper harvest. Many people called the BBC to ask where they could get a spaghetti tree from. If you want to watch the original broadcast, click here
Now that really was pranking on a mass scale (about 8 million households). But it took a major corporation to have the resources to do it. With social media, anyone can pull a hoax on a mass scale (people like my friend Donna). But with many of the pitfalls associated with social media the real question is, do you really want to?
And the best April Fool’s prank for 2011? It would have to be Ikea’s Hundstol Highchair. At $59, you can set a place for your dog at the table because “not only is the dog a part of the family, they are like a trial run for kids”.