April 1, 2007, sticks out in my mind like a sore thumb in the shape of the Facebook "like" button. I was 19 and a sophomore in college. Ten years ago, only a handful of kids at my school had Apple computers (I had a Dell), there was no universal campus Wi-Fi (not even in dorms; I had an ethernet cable), everyone wanted a Blackberry, and Facebook was relatively new, still only open to those with an .edu address.
On that particular April Fools', I woke up, climbed down from my loft bed (#tbt), and opened my Dell to log into Facebook, a thing I did no less than twenty times a day. In whatever iteration the Facebook layout was in (this was pre-newsfeed), a notification appeared in some top real estate on my "wall."
"Introducing LIVE POKE," I scanned the text. "We'll send a real person to go to poke your friend, IRL." At the time, the "poke" feature was big on Facebook, though no one could come to any conclusion as to what it meant, but maybe it was flirting.
I was horrified. What the fuck? I didn't even consider logistics, because I am a Big Picture Thinker, but perhaps if I had I would have seen a parade of red flags. But I didn't. I just jumped straight to what a bad move this was for Facebook. This was dangerous! Live Poking?! Were they insane? Was someone about to knock on my door, come into my room and touch me?
You should never believe anything you read here
Remember, I was 19, which is the age you 100 percent think you are an adult but are 100 percent not one, and I thought the days of getting pranked on the first of April were over. Because remember, I was an adult and pranks were for babies. If I was going to prank or be pranked, I believed it would be something generic—catch my mom off guard and telling her I was pregnant, or maybe get a "joke" exam passed out at the beginning of a class I would undoubtedly sleep through. And because I lived on a college campus full of people my own age who also believed they were above being fucked with on a fake holiday, I definitely was not expecting to be had. Not by my peers, not by my professors, not by the internet, and definitely not by Facebook.
But hindsight is 20/20 and my roommate was wherever she was, and no one told me it was April Fools', and no one told my editor at the college paper either, because I pitched this story (I believe the headline was something along the lines of, "Live Pokes = Not Great!") and he was as stunned as I was and was all, "go with it, yes, Watergate, the Pulitzer!"
I wrote it! My column (lmao, thankfully it is not archived) that week was, essentially, a very, very, very earnest takedown of Facebook's Live Poke feature. April 1 was a Sunday and I filed it on Monday morning.
Remember, the internet moved way slower ten years ago than it does now. I often think about this in terms of viral videos. "OMG SHOES" was hilarious for months before you finally couldn't find anyone who hadn't already seen it. People weren't plugged in 24/7 like they are today.
Earlier this week, I was totally on board with the idea that Jon Lovitz and Jessica Lowndes were a thing. I saw the vague Instagrams from Lowndes proclaiming she had met a man with liver spots on his hands, I read Jezebel's Bobby Finger putting it all together, and I bought it. Look, Hollywood has seen weirder couples! It kind of made sense. A few hours later it came out that the entire relationship was engineered to promote her new music video, which, in 2016, also makes sense. Similar to the twerking girl who lit herself on fire (for Jimmy Kimmel, it turns out), the internet now, in its current form, exists to fuck with people. You should never believe anything you read here.
But in 2007, what did I know? It is entirely possible that I saw that notification on Facebook, pitched my story, got it approved, wrote it, and filed it before realizing…that obviously…it was…a joke! If that happened today, not only would I have never fell for it in the first place, but there's no way that I would have even seen the joke before someone had already debunked it. We move fast, and we've shed our innocence somewhere along the marathon route.
I found out Live Poke was a sham with an hour to spare before my column went to print. I don't remember how I found out, but I do remember running, very fast down the hill that my dorm sat on, down the driveway that connected the dining hall to the quad, down the stairs to the student union, into the newspaper office, and begging my editor to pull it.
He was pissed. Yes, it was on me to have caught that (but it was also on him, I thought silently, as an editor) and he argued that the absence of my idiotic take would leave a blank space smack in the middle of the op/ed page, but then he argued (mostly with himself) that we really couldn't run such an embarrassment.
We didn't run it. I still use Facebook. But I unfollowed notifications from Mark Zuckerberg. I'm not ready to forgive him yet.
For April Fools' Day, we're doing stories and interviews about trickery. Check 'em out here.