I can't find a post from long ago... July 20, 2012 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Facebook and Metafilter comment pranks

A long time ago (at least 4 or 5 years, I think) there was a post on the blue featuring a prank where someone had tagged his friend in subtly altered Facebook photos. A commenter in the discussion saw this as a form of bullying and took offense. Other commenters then began subtly altering his comments. It was one of the funniest things I had seen on Metafilter. But now I can't find it! Please help me!

And if this should be on AskMe instead, just show me to the door.
posted by Ducks or monkeys to MetaFilter-Related at 9:11 PM (74 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

James' Face
posted by Room 641-A at 9:17 PM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am waiting for this with eager anticipation.
posted by andoatnp at 9:17 PM on July 20, 2012


Somehow I missed that particular photoshop tag. Thank you so much!!!
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 9:20 PM on July 20, 2012


This did it (using the google search function): facebook photo prank

I thought it was really funny, but the comments made me more sensitive to the way other people see pranks.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:26 PM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh my god that thread.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2012


It wasn't quite as high-larious as I remembered it, but still pretty enjoyable. Thanks again!
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 9:36 PM on July 20, 2012


Wow. Comments are ridiculous on this. I thought people were being sarcastic but I guess not
posted by KogeLiz at 9:39 PM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm starting to think this post needs a trigger warning."

How did that *NOT* become a meme? Or at least an in-joke?
posted by Ardiril at 9:42 PM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


How did that *NOT* become a meme? Or at least an in-joke?

Sensitivity and good taste.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:50 PM on July 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


No, seriously.
posted by Ardiril at 9:51 PM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


You think a guy in a $4000 suit has time to alter photos and comments? Come on!!!!!
posted by special-k at 10:11 PM on July 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


ardvril you are the worst elf
posted by boo_radley at 10:12 PM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The antagonism between those two reminds me of this article about John Lurie.
posted by dobbs at 11:29 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and that article is miserably depressing. Don't read it.
posted by dobbs at 12:09 AM on July 21, 2012


They are not my teeth and that is not my bush baby. This has gone far enough.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:55 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time there is a prank thread there is a vocal contingent who feels that the pranking is beyond all bounds of decency. The rhetoric gets quite heated. This came up I. The thread about the dad who dressed in costumes for the school bus, and I remember it most clearly in the thread about the family who filmed themselves having a party in the room of the thirteen year old away at camp. What's most interesting to me in these responses is that often the folks on both sides are using the same sorts of experiences to come to diametrical conclusions. In that camp thread I remember a few people whom clearly had not great childhoods saying they thought it was abusive, while my own not great childhood was precisely the thing that made me think it came from a place of love. It's a strange and beautiful world.
posted by OmieWise at 3:13 AM on July 21, 2012 [26 favorites]


You may tell yourself, they are not my beautiful teeth
You may tell yourself, that is not my beautiful bush baby

posted by Wolfdog at 3:22 AM on July 21, 2012 [33 favorites]


I am honored and humbled that this thread would come up in metatalk. Occasionally I go back and look at those pictures and still tear up over how funny they are.

The one where he's holding that unidentified... thing. Oh my god. "I don't even know what that is in my hand."

The thread was funny too.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:27 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The antagonism between those two reminds me of this article about John Lurie.

Is that article...for real? It's just so crazy, and after Fishing with John I can't take anything about Lurie at face value.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:28 AM on July 21, 2012


Rick Moody has written a pretty well-researched response to that Lurie article just recently.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:34 AM on July 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


If anything, I'm now even more weirded out!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:37 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I don't even know what that is in my hand."

What is that thing, anyway?
posted by Gator at 8:03 AM on July 21, 2012


Did you see that Fishing With John is on Netflix instant view now? It's even better than I remembered it.

Fishinggggg....



with John

posted by dirtdirt at 8:16 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pranking and practical "joking" is for immature jerks. The photo-tweaking isn't as bad as that bedroom invasion thing, though. That was disgusting.
posted by Decani at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2012


That's how I feel about football, and yet I make it through a day without getting too upset.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:03 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The photo-tweaking isn't as bad as that bedroom invasion thing, though. That was disgusting.

This is what I'm talking about. I find that reaction to be so hyperbolic as to suggest a total lack of understanding of how human relationships work. But, hey, it's a big old world and it takes all sorts.
posted by OmieWise at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really enjoy those kinds of posts on a "weird robot studying human behavior" level because so many mefites reveal such unbelievably fucking fascinating things about their perceptions of the actions of others and the entire world in general.
posted by elizardbits at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Every time there is a prank thread there is a vocal contingent who feels that the pranking is beyond all bounds of decency.

I think they're good barometers for people who were utter prigs as kids and haven't quite grown out of it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:44 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, there are limits, ie: Rolling someone up in a carpet and throwing them off a bridge.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:45 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think they're good barometers for people who were utter prigs assholes as kids and haven't quite grown out of it.

FTFY. Yes, I know you think I'm proving your point. The feeling is mutual.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:58 AM on July 21, 2012


Joke's on you, I was an utter prig as a kid and grew into an asshole! Ha!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think they're good barometers for people who were utter prigs as kids and haven't quite grown out of it.

You can also use them to spot the kids who were just a tad more sensitive than the ones around them, and thus were the favored target of every bully craving the biggest reaction to their latest poke.

By and large when these pranks were played on them it wasn't by their friends having a laugh but rather by someone who's motivation was to feel powerful by hurting someone else.

So yeah, they tend to read these situations differently. What you immediately read as obvious good fun they immediately read as sadistic torture. It takes a while for the truth to sort out.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:10 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's almost as if the hilarity/horribleness of a prank depends more on the pranker-prankee relationship than the prank itself!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


Everybody knows that the first thing you do when you get control of someone's Twitter or Facebook is post "I'M DOING A BIG POO".

Right, guys? Guy?
posted by Jofus at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Here's that 'S' I forgot.)
posted by Jofus at 11:26 AM on July 21, 2012


I believe the classic bon mot is DISREGARD THAT I SUCK COCKS.
posted by elizardbits at 11:48 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand: "Of course, there are limits, ie: Rolling someone up in a carpet and throwing them off a bridge."

What if the carpet is rolled loosely? Really. Hurry up and answer, this is getting heavy.
posted by Splunge at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I believe the classic bon mot

On dit «bones mots.»
posted by zippy at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2012


Wow Jessamyn that is a searing indictment of the New Yorker piece, thanks for linking.
posted by smoke at 2:54 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That "James' Face" thing is hilarious, and I say that speaking as someone who was bullied in a very similar way (by a guy on a message board, not Facebook.)

But the response there? Dozens of other people on the forum photoshopped his face onto their avatars. He quit the forum later that week
posted by modernserf at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay it's driving me crazy: WTF does the acronym 'PERC' mean in that Rick Moody rebuttal? I am completely paralyzed and can't even finish the article. Why do people do that?
posted by trip and a half at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2012


parentheses exponents roots cookies
posted by elizardbits at 3:57 PM on July 21, 2012


Thanks!
posted by trip and a half at 3:59 PM on July 21, 2012


Omiewise, wish I had realized that *before* I posted the Big Metal Chicken thread.... ;)
posted by zarq at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think they're good barometers for people who were utter prigs as kids and haven't quite grown out of it.

You can also use them to spot the kids who were just a tad more sensitive than the ones around them, and thus were the favored target of every bully craving the biggest reaction to their latest poke.


I was really sensitive and quite severely bullied as a child, and I still think the James's face prank and the bedroom prank were harmless. In the Facebook photo prank, James could have put a stop to it by blocking his friend. My guess is his "outrage" over the prank is mostly faked, a sort of play fighting. For me the real criticism of the prank is that it wasn't funny. Surely the friend could have done more creative and amusing things to those photos with Photoshop than give his friend's features a slightly Neanderthal cast.

In the bedroom prank, the boy's family members didn't go through his stuff or, I bet, even disarrange his belongings. They just took pictures of themselves doing silly things with props that probably came from the rest of the house. I cannot see how this fun was at the boy's expense at all, or how he could have felt hurt or humiliated or violated by such behaviour.

An older brother of mine just loved hurting and humiliating me, and he used to go through my room looking for stuff to ridicule me for. I was always a little scribbler, so he'd read my journal and stories I'd written and then quote them at me and laugh uproariously and go on about how stupid they were and I was. (And as he continued doing this, plus plenty of other very cruel things, until he was 21 and I was 14, I think it falls outside any excusable "oh he was just a kid, he didn't know better" behavioural categorization.) That was an invasion of privacy, and malicious. I am sure that if my family had done that other photo prank to me while I was at camp I just would have thought it funny.

Learn how to tell the difference between a real violation of boundaries and harmless pranks, people. It'll help keep your blood pressure at a reasonable level and your relationships on an even keel.
posted by orange swan at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Fine, I'm going with 'Public Employment Relations Commission', even though I can't see how that makes sense in context. Grr.
posted by trip and a half at 4:17 PM on July 21, 2012


but cookies
posted by elizardbits at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find no humor in most pranks, mostly because I am fairly literally minded-- eg, like I understand, on a base level, that someone might lie for personal/economic gain, I don't find much humor in thinks that are more or less variations of, "Ha HA! You BELIEVED something I TOLD you!" Most pranks are some variation of this, and that seems sort of unsophisticated and cheap-- essentially a power play, similar to the category of "violation of boundaries" pranks.

But it does remind me of my grammar school science teacher who, right around Christmastime, would weave these extensive stories about Santa Claus and elves and would write intricate notes purportedly from the elf that lived in his house. My younger brother had this science teacher, as well, so one day I left a calligraphed note in our room from an elf which my brother enthusiastically took to my father exclaiming "It's true! We have an elf who lives at our house, too!" My father took a look at it, started reading, and pretty soon his eyes widened and he started yelling, "DEEEAANNNN!" Then again, I was 11, so even though I have indicted pranks as childish, unsophisticated humor, in my defense I was an unsophisticated child at the time.
posted by deanc at 4:39 PM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's the guy saying that this is just the first step towards people having picnics at public hangings that makes it a truly timeless post. You just sort of notice that quonsar isnt in there anymore to bring the post back to earth.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:43 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow Jessamyn that is a searing indictment of the New Yorker piece, thanks for linking.

Really? I thought he had some quality criticisms of Friend for being too callous, but I found Moody's description of his relationship with Lurie...a tad disingenuous. He describes himself as a fan and "acquaintance" but then drops a bunch of details about Lurie's thoughts on the whole piece and Lurie's friends' thoughts and the purported original theme of the article...I mean, where's he getting all that if not from Lurie? It seems clear to me that they must be pretty tight, and that Moody's read on Lurie's motivations should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.

I mean to open the article as "very partisan adherent of Lurie’s music, and an acquaintance of the man himself" and then go on about the "impractical generosity" that you have long associated with him? (The footnote in that sentence, near as I can make out, is to an email from Lurie to "A Friend." I mean, give me three guess, eh?) It's fine if you want to defend your BFF, Lurie's lucky to have a friend like that, but I can't exactly take it as impartial.

To be sure, of course, Friend's metier is The Doom of the Decadent WASP, so his somewhat shallow, emphasize-the-negative tendencies probably distort his take somewhat. For that reason, though, I trust his bitchery more when he coldly describes the usefulness of Lurie's looks to his career and the effect of their decline on the latter. But I can't blame him as a writer if he goes to write one story --- "former avant garde rocker reinvents himself as painter" and the whole time he's hangout interviewing the dude the guy's whole life turns out to be dominated by this conflict with a former friend/protegee/stalker, and that becomes the story instead. It's a more interesting story.

Oh, and PERC, y'all, seems to be some kind of dry-cleaning liquid.
posted by Diablevert at 4:43 PM on July 21, 2012


It's the guy saying that this is just the first step towards people having picnics at public hangings that makes it a truly timeless post.

Oh Lord. I did skim the thread and think it verged on Metafilter self-parody, but somehow missed that particular gem. Forget verging.
posted by orange swan at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's pretty much my come-away, too, Diablevert. (And none of the meanings of PERC I could find make a lick of sense in that sentence.)
posted by trip and a half at 4:53 PM on July 21, 2012


Dry cleaning is any cleaning process for clothing and textiles using a chemical solvent other than water. The solvent used is typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), which the industry calls "perc".

I apologize for indulging my nudgery, but I'm pretty sure he means the dry-cleaning solvent.

The relevant bit it this:
Maybe Lurie’s success is enviable in the fact that at one point he finally had money to dry clean his suits, which Friend adduces as the sine qua non of achievement in the eighties (though as a graduate of Shipley and Harvard, his father, one-time president of Swarthmore College, it is hard to imagine that Friend was ever far from the blessings of PERC).


Wiki turns up, in its definition of dry-cleaning "dry cleaning is any cleaning process for clothing and textiles using a chemical solvent other than water. The solvent used is typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), which the industry calls 'perc'." I think he's just saying that given Friend's background, he should presumably have been able to have his clothes dry-cleaned whenever he wanted and he's being kind of dick making a big deal out of this in Lurie's case.
posted by Diablevert at 5:41 PM on July 21, 2012


I'm with Diablevert... that Moody piece was... I dunno, all kinds of wrong. Disingeniuous is the word that came up over and over again as I read it--I couldn't actually finish it--read about 3/4s.

He really doesn't understand the "everyone wanted to sleep with him or punch him" to mean "people either loved him or hated him"? That's too difficult for Moody to grasp?

He bitches endlessly that Friend doesn't write much about the music but then pages later admits the piece was proposed as to be about Lurie the now-painter?

He ascribes someone Friend quoted about Lurie being able to afford dry cleaning to Friend himself and then mocks him for it?

He's upset that Friend wasn't accurate in his tally of said stalker's qty of telephone calls? Who gives a shit? Anyone reading the Friend article understood that Lurie was being harassed to a ridiculous and absurd extent via telephone.

Lurie and stalker and Moody may hate the Friend piece... but nothing in the Moody article made me think it inaccurate. "Not what Lurie was hoping for"? Yeah, no shit. It's the New Yorker, not your publicist.
posted by dobbs at 6:13 PM on July 21, 2012


Everyone knows that PERC is the disk array controller for Dell servers.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:13 PM on July 21, 2012


In the Facebook photo prank, James could have put a stop to it by blocking his friend

BTW, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't work. It's pretty easy to tell who is blocking who in social groups and explanations would get messy. As a general solution, cutting off communications only works when you can go the whole hog.

No, if you're stuck with an inappropriate prankster in your social group you have three options:

Good option: Take person aside, say "I realize pranks are how you show affection but they really suck for me so could you please buy me coffee or something instead? Thanks."

Bad Option #1: Hit back with a prank so personally mortifying, something that strikes so deeply at the heart of fear and self-doubt of the person that they are forced to publically laugh at what a great jape you've played on them while coincidentally never ever targeting you again.

Bad Option #2: Grin and bear it.

Now admittedly if you go the talking route and the prankster in question turns out to be Alvy Ampersand you should be prepared to be called an utter prig. But at least it's out in the open.

To my great personal regret I took option #1 with a kind and sensitive man who married into my social circle. In retrospect I know that his early-on playing a mild prank on me was a way of saying that we were close, that we could poke each other. He really didn't deserve what he got.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:52 PM on July 21, 2012


Oh. Duh. I was just being thick.
posted by trip and a half at 7:58 PM on July 21, 2012


"You can also use them to spot the kids who were just a tad more sensitive than the ones around them, and thus were the favored target of every bully craving the biggest reaction to their latest poke."

No, you can't spot anyone this way — this kind of psychological theorizing is facile. As orange swan's counterexample demonstrates.

The reason these threads get contentious is because while projection is a constant problem generally, in this context it just goes way, way out of control. And it includes implicit or explicit moral judgments — look at the language people have already used in this thread: bully, prig, asshole, immature.

But no regrets, coyote's comment is the crux of it: each prank exists in a particular context of a particular relationship at a particular place and time. Any given example can be insensitive, hurtful, sadistic or appropriate, loving, and funny. It's very difficult for people outside that context to evaluate unless the specifics are extreme (the action or of the context). But people map an example of which they weren't involved onto something they experienced, or might have experienced, and form a judgment on that basis. When two people form opposing judgments, then they form judgments about the character of each other on that even more tenuous basis. Which I think is egregious.

That "away at camp" thread was interesting precisely because there was a great deal of diversity in responses even when the things assumed above, and other stuff thought to be determinative (about being sensitive, about family activities, about privacy), were the same. And it was doubly interesting because many people, even so, chose to ignore this and repeated their claim that their view of it is the only correct view.

I've seen every possible combination of personality type and interaction regarding teasing and pranks. I've seen cruel people and oversensitive people. I've seen cruel people with people who don't recognize the intended cruelty. I've seen loving teasing/pranking relationships where there wasn't a drop of hurtfulness involved.

I suppose that the one thing that might be said is that because this stuff is subtle and complex, one oughtn't tease someone or prank them unless one is very sure that the context means it's appropriate and not hurtful. This doesn't necessarily always put the responsibility on the active person, however, because there are many social situations where the preponderance of teasing/pranking being acceptable and benign is so strong that if for a particular person it's not, it's their responsibility to make it clear that they're an exception.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:43 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Snore. You guys need to stop thinking about this plate of beans and just have a bite. First of all, the whole scenario seems contrived. Second, the humor is less the reactions than the pictures themselves. Third, all of your hyper-sensitive over-analysis is seriously embarrassing.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:23 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time there is a prank thread there is a vocal contingent who feels that the pranking is beyond all bounds of decency.

And I come down on the fuck 'em if they can't take a joke side.

I think they're good barometers for people who were utter prigs as kids and haven't quite grown out of it.

Or people that have lived long joyless lives.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2012


Or people that have lived long joyless lives.

Trying to figure out what is wrong with someone whose idea of a "joyful" life involves going up to people yelling, "Ha! I FOOLED you and made you feel uncomfortable!" I mean, different strokes for different strokes, I guess, but I'd prefer you simply host some friends at your place for drinks, or something, if you want to bring joy into the world, rather than fucking with one of your "friends."

I mean, I suppose when what qualifies as living a joyful life is somewhat limited, it must seem as though people who don't rely on jokes at the expense of others or violations of personal boundaries must be pretty joyless, while in fact they simply enjoy activities and experiences with friends that don't rely on these things. I buy my friends drinks because I like them, not as a way of saying, "Hey, man, I was just joking, have a drink!" to disarm their offense after having bullied them.
posted by deanc at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2012


It's possible to have a joyful life without making others uncomfortable for part of that joy.
posted by Splunge at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2012


This thread reminds of my best friend's wedding a month ago, when, at the end of the reception, I ended up in possession of his iPad on his wedding night, with his Facebook account logged in. As I'm drunkenly typing every lewd thing I can imagine, it took four people to wrest the device away from me.

I'm sober now, but I still think it was the greatest joke ever and I don't care if it would have cost us our friendship.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:16 PM on July 22, 2012


Huh. The original thread is pretty interesting. I was immediately certain that the whole series of photos and the interaction between the two guys was completely staged, with just enough sincerity to make it pretty funny (I wasn't bowled over with laughter) and just enough clues to give it away.

It's the latter which makes a joke like this worthwhile, in my view: Anyone can pretend to be 100% dead serious, and that's really no fun. But the little teasing winks that let you figure it out (the reaction to the bush baby photo? come on) give you that pleasurable little joy you get when you, well, figure something out. Then you're in on the joke, which is where you want to be.

Now, I admit I'm going on very little evidence here, but there was little doubt in my mind that the whole thing was a stunt. And I was consequently surprised to see so many people debating whether it was, or even quite certain that it was not. I guess I should not have been surprised, though!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2012


So I worked at a place where photoshop skills were mandatory, and we routinely took each other's face pics from the company intranet and artfully blended them into other photos. Being done in this fashion was a point of pride; the most popular people had the most pics done of them, and all were tacked to our cubicle walls for all to see. It was a great place to work.

Then I worked at a place where such things weren't being done, and I started doing it to others, after talking about it. Most people enjoyed it, and soon the pictures were flying fast and furious, but via email threads rather than printouts. Particularly good email threads would get larger and larger distribution.

One guy, though, we loved him, great person all around, but he HATED it. So naturally we did it more to him. We made a flash-based app that had his face singing songs, and you could use it as an alarm clock (his eyes would follow your cursor around, too, a la Terry Gilliam.) He was very vocal about hating it, so it was much more fun (though it should be noted that he was one of the cool kids, as it were, and his outrage was something he laughed about, too.)

Then one day, he had enough and started learning photoshop, and doing my face to bodies. He wasn't skilled at it, but he picked great photos, and I loved 'em. We kept batting them back and forth, and then he sent me a picture that -- to me -- like a guy being taken from behind by another guy, looking at the face of the first guy and back over his shoulder, with my face added. I couldn't believe he'd gone that far, on interoffice mail no less, so I had to top it. I found a picture of a masseuse standing next to a client, an oiled up guy with no clothes except a piece of cloth artfully placed over his genitals, and put his face on it.

He was REALLY not amused, so we called it off, and there were no more photoshops after that, which was a shame. It was only later when talking to him and others that I discovered the pic he'd put my face on, the one I had thought over the top, was a masseuse standing behind the person being massaged, and that I was the only person who saw it as something sexually suggestive. Once I pointed it out, people totally understood my response photo, and nobody could look at it without seeing the sexuality of it...which was a shame, because my face was still on it.
posted by davejay at 10:03 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tend to take the position that once you start doing stuff to people not because you think it's funny, but because you know they hate it and you think making them upset is funny, you're being kind of an asshole. Not necessarily in a way that requires 100% social shunning, or the hatred of a dozen internets or anything, but, you know, in a way that's not really cool.

A number of my friends have discovered that I have a hair-trigger startle reflex and think it's really funny to make me squeak. So, they startle me on purpose because they're getting an amusing reaction. This is fine, because, frankly, I think it's kind of funny, too, once my heart rate goes back down. On the other hand, if I asked them to stop, and got progressively more upset after each instance, and someone kept doing it anyway, then they'd be an asshole.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:31 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


My takeaway from this is that people have different boundaries for what they consider acceptable behavior from their friends and what's one person's "SERIOUSLY KNOCK IT OFF" is another person's eye-rolling "Duuuuuuuuddddeeeeeeee."

(And that on MetaFilter, you guys seriously want everyone to knock it off right now. So noted.)
posted by sonika at 6:50 AM on July 23, 2012


Yes, absolutely. Just to make clear, I can see why people get upset at pranking and practical jokes. I do think that one of the things that comes up with kids, in particular, (see the party in the camp kid's room) is that they take themselves very seriously in ways that are sometimes not warranted and are actually burdensome for the other people involved. The camp-room prank seemed to me to be both loving, and designed to puncture the overly serious position the kid was taking with his family. Obviously this reading relies on my assumption, given the evidence, that the family really was loving, and the the kid's prohibition on going into his room was not because he was an abuse victim who needed to be able to claim some small bit of sanity in a mad world. But the point of pranks like that is often to reassert a community, rather than to exclude from it. Which is what makes it different, for me, from pranks designed to demean or exclude someone.
posted by OmieWise at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2012


I do think that one of the things that comes up with kids, in particular, (see the party in the camp kid's room) is that they take themselves very seriously in ways that are sometimes not warranted and are actually burdensome for the other people involved. The camp-room prank seemed to me to be both loving, and designed to puncture the overly serious position the kid was taking with his family.

I think this is an extremely dangerous line to walk. People are a diverse bunch, and one person's loving deflation of "unnecessary burdensome seriousness" on behalf of a kid is someone else's bullying insistance that said kid's preferences, needs and experiences are irrelevant and can be stomped upon for someone else's amusement, and that if the kid is upset about said violation, then it's their own fault because they asked for it by being too serious.

People are different. People react in different ways to different treatment. And blame for a prank gone wrong that the prankee experiences as a violation sits entirely with the pranker who either misread the situation, or was enough of an arsehole that they believed their own amusement was more important than their victim's right to not be bullied. It doesn't matter how many pretty bows you dress it up in about the victim needing to be taken down a peg or two, or have their seriousness deflated - if the victim feels bullied, then the pranker is a bully.
posted by talitha_kumi at 9:31 AM on July 23, 2012


I think this is an extremely dangerous line to walk.

Yeah, I think you're overstating it. "Extremely dangerous" is a pretty loaded statement, and whatever Metafilter thinks is really beside the point. The people who have to evaluate the reaction are the family (in this case), and Metafilter is just commenting. Some people assume the family knows what it's getting into, some folks think joking around with your brother or your son is extremely dangerous.
posted by OmieWise at 9:50 AM on July 23, 2012


"The people who have to evaluate the reaction are the family (in this case), and Metafilter is just commenting"

No, MetaFilter is judging. You were making a (very mild) moral judgment about the teen's prohibition and the family's violation of it.

This is the part I don't like because we absolutely don't have even remotely enough information to make such judgments, either against the prohibition or against the violation of it. Everyone who does so is projecting their own life experience onto a situation about which we know almost nothing. And then, worse, people are making judgments about other people's judgments.

As it happens, my subjective and idiosyncratic read on that particular incident with the kid's room is that it was a loving and not a hurtful interaction. But I am well aware that I'm unconsciously looking for evidence that I will recognize from my own experience to make such a judgment and, given my observations of other people and other families I've known well, the stuff I will recognize and the stuff I won't is, well, idiosyncratic. People and families vary greatly.

Office environments vary greatly. I reacted negatively to davejay's story, but I'm doing so exclusively on the basis of what he tells us and how he tells it. Maybe I'm keying off some cue in his style of telling the story. Maybe someone else in the office, including the other guy involved, would tell us a very different story. Experience tells me that is is more likely the case than not the case because people have vastly differing reactions to this kind of stuff.

I know from personal experience — both on the giving and receiving ends — that pranking and teasing can be malicious and hurtful or loving and affirming. Every example we've argued about is, given some synthesis of the two viewpoints involved, one or the other. The rest of us usually don't have a clue.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:48 AM on July 24, 2012


"It doesn't matter how many pretty bows you dress it up in about the victim needing to be taken down a peg or two, or have their seriousness deflated - if the victim feels bullied, then the pranker is a bully."

I do mostly agree with this. A lot of the people who dismiss concerns about stuff like this will explicitly dismiss the concerns of a person who claims to have been victimized. OmieWise implicitly is doing so because he's saying that if the kid complains and feels violated, it's because the kid set an inappropriate boundary that should have been violated. This is why talitha_kumi called this an "extremely dangerous" way of thinking about this stuff. This seems uncharacteristic of OmieWise to me, and somewhat troubling from a mental health professional.

However, I think it just points us to the nitty-gritty reality of social interactions and boundaries. We'd like to believe that all this can be reduced to a simple moral principle and a rule of behavior derived from it. For example: don't violate someone's stated boundaries, doing so intentionally is wrong. That sounds good.

But it's not so easy because, in truth, such boundaries are more socially negotiated than they are some sort of absolute expression of an individual's rightful autonomy. We Americans, especially, are inclined to think in terms of the individual being sovereign over such boundaries. But we don't really behave that way in practice. Nor should we.

People really do need to learn to set appropriate boundaries and what "appropriate" means is dependent upon a larger cultural context, the immediate social context, and the specific personal needs of the people involved. All those things are not always in congruency, often they're not, and there's usually some sort of negotiation involved to find a compromise between them.

This doesn't excuse bullying. Because, honestly, a lot of this social negotiation is a form of bullying. Every complaining MetaTalk post demonstrates this — every aggrieved complaint by an individual in a social context is answered by a combination of validation of that complaint and an aggressive mockery of that complaint. People who are serially and often aggrieved in social contexts are subsequently picked on, bullied, and this can be a way of signaling to them that the boundaries they are attempting to enforce are outside the social norm. On the other hand, there are people who are naturally aggressive and violate others' boundaries as a means of coercion — they're bullies by nature. Any given social interaction in isolation can be difficult to ascertain as what is arguably a productive social conformancy or as coercion by individuals with vested interests.

Even so, I still am inclined to think that we ought to start from the assumption that the aggrieved party's complaint is valid until proven otherwise. Because my own impression is that while there's a lot of people who attempt to set inappropriately expansive boundaries, there's far more people who routinely attempt to violate entirely appropriate and conventional boundaries.

Furthermore, it's not clear to me that although this kind of group-norm-enforcement-as-boundary-violation is probably instinctive, and probably often accomplishes its useful purpose, that it's the only or the best way to do so. Is it inconceivable that it might be better for everyone involved if, for example, the family has a discussion with the child that he's setting inappropriate boundaries rather than egregiously violating those boundaries and hoping he learns the lesson? The latter just doesn't seem like the best way to do things. In fact, it seems like a way that while it arguably usually works, when it fails it fails in a spectacularly negative fashion, causing much more harm than good. Maybe the too-sensitive coworker will ease up and take himself less seriously and be part of the gang...or maybe he'll return with weapons and ammo.

When someone says "I don't like it when you tease me" they should be listened to, not teased more. Yes, it very well may be the case that it is they who is outside social norms and their expectations about others' behavior unrealistic and even controlling. The best way to get that across to them is probably not by beating them over the head while laughing at their distress. But, it's also frequently the case that their concerns are valid, the boundaries they're setting are appropriate and fair, and that one has been selfish in violating them because "it's fun".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:22 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact, it seems like a way that while it arguably usually works, when it fails it fails in a spectacularly negative fashion, causing much more harm than good. Maybe the too-sensitive coworker will ease up and take himself less seriously and be part of the gang...or maybe he'll return with weapons and ammo.

How likely is that as opposed to "momentarily pissed and resentful, later forgets about it"? Either way, I'm definitely not doing the ol' fly-in-the-icecube at the next meet-up now, that's for damn sure.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:42 PM on July 24, 2012


Just to be clear here, I'm on the side of the funniness or cruelty of said prank resting upon the relationship between the two parties involved.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:44 PM on July 24, 2012


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