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Don't let your prank go too far today

Today, April Fools’ Day, is a day when people play practical jokes on each other. Wikipedia says that in Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other’s backs as a trick and shout ‘April fish!’ in their local languages. Such fish feature prominently in many late 19th and early 20th century April Fools’ Day postcards from France.

A recap of April Fools’ history shows us that in 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. While many pranks which are recorded on the Internet seem innocent enough, history is replete with instances where jokes on April 1 have backfired, often with unintended, tragic consequences.

A quick check will show that in countries around the world there have been hoaxes on bomb blasts, assassination of political leaders, jokes about prisoners being freed from prison en masse, among others. Some of these were more callous and cruel than funny, putting people in potentially dangerous situations.

It is vital then that today, while playing a prank or planning some kind of elaborate hoax on somebody, one should step back a little and think about possible repercussions.

We live in an age of social media, where jokes and rumours are amplified a thousand times, simply because of the medium that we have at our fingertips — the Internet and its different social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.

We have seen how this age of information is two-pronged. While it is of huge help, it can also backfire — all through the year we see social media being used to spread rumours about celebrity deaths, or other calamities.

When playing pranks on friends, one must always be mindful of the invisible line that should not be crossed. When you put somebody in an alarming or potentially dangerous situation, the consequences may be tragic. Keep your jokes truly funny, light-hearted and most importantly, safe, today.

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