I was sick for a vast portion of last week and consequently spent a lot of time aimlessly dicking around on Facebook and Twitter. To be fair, this is what I do every day but this time I was in bed with absolutely nothing else to do. And a strange thing happens in the middle of the day to college students on both of these social networks. They all start updating their statuses about some of the following topics:
1. Really bad diarrhea.
2. Their penis is stuck in something.
3. Something stuck up their vagina.
4. Their sudden coming out as a homosexual/heterosexual and their appreciation for the genitals of men/women.
5. Description of their STI symptoms/general genital rash woes.
Those five themes pretty much cover every sort of ‘frape’ I’ve witnessed. As a comedic endeavour it’s pretty limited: you only have about five minutes tops to think of something witty. Another feature of the frape is often violent sexual language: people talk about the rough anal sex they had last night and how sore their bum is today. And that’s funny because… anal is a completely acceptable sexual act? Wait, why is fraping funny you guys?
A few weeks ago now there was a Senate discussion on cyber bullying. Dopey Senator Fidelma Healy Eames spoke of the TERROR facing “our youth” (a phrase always used by people whose children left college and home in 1998) online, using the example of “fraping – when you get raped on Facebook.” That quote has been circulated widely, but you know what? I knew it was going to come and bite us in the ass eventually. There is a problem with equating the mildly embarrassing experience of someone posting stupid shit on your social networking page with a deeply violent and invasive betrayal of your personal space.
Our generations gone a bit bongo mongo with the term ‘rape.’ You only need to walk down the street and see a bunch of lads jostling and messing before one of them will howl ‘RAAAAAAPE!’ As if, again, a violent invasive crime is equivalent to your friend playfully jumping on your back. I’ve heard people talk about raping essays and raping people in COD. Fraping and twaping (Twitter rape) are the most commonly used terms on social networks. And now can I respectfully ask for two things:
1. We stop using the term frape. It’s really deeply insulting to rape victims and cheapens the meaning of the word at a time when rape culture is a massive societal problem. My friend once suggested the slightly less catchy but far more accurate term ‘impersa-face’ to refer to Facebook pranks.
2. Can we actually make Facebook pranks funny?
Maybe it sounds like I’m being negative and moany. I am infamously grumpy about people messing around with my Facebook and Twiter, so I do have a personal bias against these sort of jokes. But I am being honest when I say there has only been one occasion when I experienced a funny Facebook prank. It was 2010, in the early days of my life on Facebook, and I’d been in my friend Tara’s house. I checked Facebook and left myself logged in. I walked home and then logged in on my laptop later that evening. Tara had access to my Facebook for about half an hour.
She had liked nearly 100 different pages dedicated to Justin Bieber, Twilight, Miley Cyrus, Fianna Fail, Margaret Thatcher, Country Music, Marmite: anything that she knew I didn’t like, she had ‘liked’. She pranked me so deeply and effectively that three years later I’m still getting Facebook ads for Twilight books and Bieber concerts. She updated my status telling all of my friends how I’d been SO WRONG about Twilight before, that Bella was SUCH a role model. She did it so subtly people couldn’t tell if it was me being sarcastic or someone messing. I STILL haven’t managed to remove all of the shit she liked that evening. She was a downright pro about it.
What that evening launched was a Facebook war to end all Facebook wars. Phones were wrestled out of hands, people would leave for the bathroom, shriek ‘OH FUCK!’ and sprint back into the room and punch you in the stomach to get the iPad off you. I once accidentally posted on Tara’s mother’s page that she was going to ‘give up on men forever and join the nuns in the South of France.’ It was a WAR. It was a dirty, hilarious war that stretched on for months. Apps were deleted, texts were sent saying ‘you fucking bitch get OFF my Facebook.’ It was INTENSE. So when people tell me I ‘just don’t get’ what Facebook pranking is about, I laugh. Please, I learned from the master, and she created her own worst enemy.
I know what a lot of people will say about this: big fucking deal, who cares about the word frape? It’s just a word! But the thing is, language has importance and weight. You’d be surprised and amused if I told you how emotional and angry people can get over words like ‘feminist’, ‘cunt’, ‘slut’ or ‘llama’ and it’s the same with ‘rape’. There are some words we need to take the venom out of, like ‘fat’ (or ‘llama’), and there are other words like rape that need to be kept to define only what rape is. There’s too much bullshit and disagreement over what’s a ‘legitimate’ rape already, we don’t need it being claimed as a catch all term for all mild impositions.
Finally, y’all need to up your games, guys. Status updates about poo and itchy privates are fine when you’re in like, sixth year. But this is UNIVERSITY. You’re adults now. You should be getting more sophisticated in your pranks than willies and rashes. You guys are the future of Irish Law, medicine, commerce and in the case of Sociology/English students, the retail and fast food industry. We owe it to ourselves to AT LEAST do a decent impersa-face.
Niamh ‘I frape, you frape, he/she frapes…’ Keoghan