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Clout-lighting: Pranking your partner for likes is a surefire way to get dumped on April 1


What would you do to get more likes or shares on your favorite social media platform on April 1?

Would you one air horn in your partner’s ear while they sleep, record their reaction and upload it online? Would you put hot chili in their food, then film and share their distress?

Online prank videos are nothing new, and while many are light-hearted, there’s a concerning subgenre called “clout-lighting” originated on the internet.

But in case you’re planning on pranking your partner this April Fools’ Day, research shows it’s a surefire way to get dumped.

What is clout lighting?

Clout-lighting is a combination of the word “clout” (to have social influence) and “gaslighting” (systematic manipulation causing victims to question their own beliefs and feelings).

The term was first used by a British journalist Jessica Lindsay to describe the practice of intimate partners playing extreme pranks on each other and posting their reactions on social media.

Clout lighting is related to but different from an online prank. jokes targets unsuspecting people, often strangers, while clout-lighting involves intimate partners.

Both clout-lighting and online pranks represent “aggressive humour” or “negative humour” and its subcategory “contempt” – they mock, tease or mock innocent victims in order to entertain an audience.

Clout-lighting is also different from cyberbullying. “Clout-lighters” seem motivated by their emotional needs – seeking attention and gaining popularity on social media. On the other hand, internet bullies relentlessly targeting individuals to cause harm or distress hidden by the cloak of anonymity.

Read more: ​​​​Is it OK to prank your kids? Do they understand? And where is the border?

Why is clout lighting an emerging trend?

There is nothing new about filming and publishing a prank. American reality show Hidden camera first broadcast in 1948; like the more recent ones Punk’d and similar shows, they feature footage captured by a hidden camera of regular people (sometimes celebrities) caught up in pranks or trickery.

However, social media has created a platform for people to use jokes to generate more clicks and popularity on social media: clout. These days anyone can be a comedy celebrity, and YouTube is full of them.

YouTube prank channels provide a platform for pranksters to gain followers and popularity.

However, in order to get more likes, shares or followers, clout lighters have to publish extreme (sometimes even cruel and hurtful) pranks inflicted on their closest people.

One example is reportedly involved rub chilli on a tampon, with the resulting video response viewed by millions online. Others added secretly laxatives or hot chili sauce eat, or torment a girlfriend with a spider.

While many of the skits appear highly produced, the clout-lighting genre pushes the boundaries of comedic entertainment, toward promoting intimate partner violence and misogyny.

Passive voyeurism

Worryingly, many of these cruel and embarrassing clips have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, reflecting our penchant for passive voyeurism. As reality TV illustrates suffering and loss and a preoccupation with personal trauma for the sake of entertainment, videos with striking lighting do the same.

Read more: ​​​​Why are so many people happy with disgusting things?

Studies have shown that viewers drawn to extreme forms of entertainment, the seek sensation personality trait – the tendency to constantly seek varied and intense viewing experiences. Passive voyeurism of human pain increases as our compassion fades and we become desensitized to the images. Accordingly, we look at even more extreme images to achieve the same level of sensation.

That way, clout-lighters have to post even more hurtful and demeaning content to keep driving traffic to their channel.

Who are impact lighters?

a 2020 study found that regardless of age, clout lighters tended to have low self-esteem and were “higher social media users”. Males were more than four times more likely to engage in clout-lighting than females.

The study also indicated that couples who engaged in clout-lighting were more likely to have “low levels of satisfaction” in their relationship, and more likely to break up.

Canadian researchers found that some online pranksters tended to be motivated by sadism – a desire to harm others in order to enhance their own positive feelings.

Relational dialectics theory explains contradictions in relationships – the point between harmony and possible separation. When two people come together as partners, they begin to experience internal tensions – they all want different things, express different values ​​and life goals. Research shows that people perceive negative relational humour as a sign of reduced relationship satisfaction.

Relating this theory to clout-lighting, pranking a partner, and posting the results on social media can increase the level of perceived insecurity in a relationship, especially when the prank is demeaning and socially embarrassing. Hence the chances of the partners breaking up.

These studies reject the idea that clout-lighting is nothing more than light-hearted jokes aimed at a loved one. On a much deeper level, such jokes can indicate dissatisfaction with the relationship.

The Conversation commissions articles by academics around the world that explore how society is shaped by our digital interactions with each other. Read more here

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