Time was it, playing a practical joke on your best friend meant shaving their eyebrows or waking them up after a night out with a nice glass of ‘water’ (actual content: vodka).
But practical joking, like every other facet of our lives, has been transformed by social media. Now, the optimum time to play childish pranks on the people you love is not when they’re passed out, but when they nip to the shops without closing their laptops or foolishly lend you their phone to make a call.
We’re talking, of course, about Facebook pranking (never to referred to by that dreadful portmanteau ‘fraping’) – leaping into the control seat of someone’s virtual life and wreaking havoc.
The practice is often associated with crude, clearly faked status updates (‘I HAVE A SMALL WILLY’), but that’s for people who don’t appreciate the fine art of a good wind up.
Instead, done right, fraudulent social networking can inflict maximum humiliation and reap rich rewards for days or even weeks afterwards.
Here's five ways how.
Toilet humour can be a wonderful thing, but in the case of Facebook pranks, a wasted opportunity. Anything about having bad body odour or your victim’s last visit to the bathroom will get a cheap laugh, but fool no one.
Instead, think of it like a caricature. Take a prominent part of your pal’s personality and ramp it up to eleven. Are they generally upbeat and full of vim? Then make them look like a nauseating narcissist:
…and include a few embarrassingly youthful acronyms and ‘hashtags’ for good measure.
The way Facebook works nowadays, profile information is so well hidden, no one reads it except new (read: impressionable) friends checking someone out for the first time. Wonderfully, anything you leave here can’t be countered with a quick ‘that wasn’t me’ message underneath. The damage is done.
Changing sexual preference will flood their dating apps with unwelcome faces. Altering their date of birth will force them to spend a day correcting well wishers. Fiddling with their political beliefs can turn them into rabid, right-wing neo-Nazis and kill any potential new romances cold. And the best bit is, they’ll notice these annoyances way too late to guess it was you.
Simple, quick and effective. Go through as many profiles as you can ‘liking’ very old photographs that imply your friend has been scrolling through their history like a sweaty-palmed voyeur.
Any beach shots from the album ‘IBIZA WITH THE GIRLS 2003’ is a good bet, as is, of course, any photos of their ex. Leave a creepy comment for added affect.
Think about what your buddy most prides himself on. Is it impeccable music tastes? A great sense of style? Right on liberal politics? Whatever it is, there will be an abundance of Facebook groups and pages devoted to the exact opposite. Sign up for as many as your can, turning their carefully crafted virtual personas upside down.
If your friend is in a medium to long-term relationship, now is the perfect time to break the happy news they’ve decided to get engaged. No only will they be inundated with gushing well wishes, they’ll have to deny it, potentially offending their partner in the process.
A more extreme version of this prank would be announcing they have a baby on the way by simply posting a picture of a ultrasound. And before you accuse of us being sick, we’d like to point out that Esquire knows of at least one person who did this one for real. Happy pranking.