I’ve had thoughts about this for a while but never really gotten down to writing about it until a recent case happened, where a Japanese YouTuber was arrested for obstruction of official duty when he and his wife decided to pull a prank on the police in order to increase their viewership.
The said man approached a cop pretending to ask for directions while his wife films the act a distance away. While the police explained the route to the man, the latter nonchalantly pulls out his phone from his pants pocket and in the process “drops” a packet of suspicious-looking white powder. As the police watches the man bend down to pick it up, he dashes off resulting in a chase by the police in suspicion of the man’s possession of illegal stimulant drugs, when the packet in question was actually filled with white sugar.
This YouTube prank thing has gotten out of hand. I think it’s more ethical to post something as a prank that is not actually a prank. But what got me shaking my head at YouTube pranksters first was videos of guys going on the streets pulling down people’s pants or asking girls for sex, and when they are about to get beaten up for it, they would say, “it’s a prank” or “it’s a social experiment.”
The term has been abused by people trying to do stuff beyond moral grounds. It gives them an escape path when things don’t work out. Scale it down a huge notch, it’s like how a guy asks a girl to be his girlfriend and when the response is negative, he goes, “Hahaha, I was just kidding.”
Prank or social experiment, it doesn’t give you the right to pull my pants down in public. This reminds me of my uni days when occasionally, you would see people behaving oddly around campus such as carrying a giant cardboard mobile phone and talking through it as though it were working; walking up a tiny slope and calling for others to help them down, etc. For the unsuspecting crowd, these people may seem crazy, but they are usually psychology major students doing their social experiments. But I’ve never been bothered by that since they’re carrying out valid research for a paper.
The Internet has opened up a whole new way for people to make money, and digital advertising has made it possible for anyone to be self-employed. Increase in page views or video views translates to increase in ad revenue, which has led to the trend that as long as page view numbers increase, individual blog owners or YouTubers don’t care how it’s done. We’ve seen celebrities involved in scandals who sometimes created those scandals themselves in order to increase page views on their blogs. Sometimes, they deliberately post provocative statements just to get people to flame them on their pages. It doesn’t matter to them if the comments are negative because it brings in the money.
If I cared more about money, I might’ve written more controversial topics in more confrontational ways. If someday you see me do that, you know why.