Zoom is a goldmine for playing pranks. Here are the best ways to mess with your friends and coworkers.

The Zoom Video Communications logo is pictured at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New YorkReuters
  • You might think you know everything there is to know about Zoom, the wildly popular video-conferencing software.
  • But did you know Zoom presents its users with myriad opportunites to lightly troll other participants?
  • You can create custom backgrounds, screen-share inappropriate browser tabs, and use the whiteboard feature to draw naughty things.
  • The Zoom world is your pranking oyster.

By this point, you've probably mastered the basics — and more advanced practices — of Zoom, the video-conference software that now dictates our every waking moment and from whose all-watchful eye we can never escape.

But there's no reason you can't have a little fun with the software (unless it'll get you fired, in which case: no fun). Theoretically, the sky is the limit here: the only thing stopping you from reaching a new plane of pranking existence is yourself. To get you started, however, here are some simple ways to mess with your chat buddies.

Use a custom background to fool unsuspecting participants

Assuming that you own a new enough computer (or a green screen), Zoom will let you use a "custom background" that superimposes you into new, fun locales. You could choose a tropical island, outer space, or any other image you upload. In addition to still backgrounds, Zoom will let you use video files, too, and users are already getting high-concept with it.Advertisement

However, if you really want to elevate things, there's a way to get out of meetings or classes in which you don't actively participate. Just record some footage of yourself sitting at your computer silently, set it as your background, and step out of frame. Like the scheme from "Speed," only without the possibility of exploding.

Alternatively, you can make your background a screenshot of someone else on the call and then step out of frame. Nobody will be able to tell who the impostor is, and one of you will get killed in an action-movie evil-twin standoff scenario.

"Accidentally" put a message in the wrong sidechat

Brian Feldman
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Zoom's text-chat interface is functional, but not exactly intuitive. Messages meant for everyone and for individuals are easy to get confused, or you might forget which user(s) the chat is set for. Because of this, it would be very funny to send someone a message such as: "Hey, so, we're doing the surprise party at 7," and then follow-up with, "Oops, sorry wrong window." This is a very mean joke.

Pretend to be muted

This is simply a good gag. Unmute yourself, but then mouth words without making any noise. Everyone will start yelling at you — "you're muted!" they'll yelp — and then people will get mad about the Mute indicator being off, and then they'll get confused about why they can't hear you. I recommend you keep this bit up for at least 30 seconds, so it has time to be funny, and then get old, and then loop around to be funny again.

Pretend to not know you're unmuted

Say something rude or absurd. Pretend you're talking to someone offscreen. "Yeah, I'm in this boring meeting and they won't shut up but I'll be off soon." Even when people say that you're not muted, don't acknowledge it. Pretend that you exist in a vacuum. (This is a really good way to get fired; proceed with caution.) Advertisement

Screen-share your murder folders

Brian Feldman

One of the most perilous mistakes one can make on Zoom is sharing too much about their computer, like what files are on their desktop or what tabs they have open and what pages they have bookmarked. Take advantage of this by coming up with a unifying theme for your computer and plastering it everywhere. Boot up a screen-share that "accidentally" reveals all of your browser tabs opened to Wikipedia entries for famous serial killers, or open up a folder that's full of disturbing DeviantArt scrapings.

Wear a funny hat, but pretend it's an AR filter

Find a goofy hat (ideally one that's too small) and put it on. When people make comments about it, tell them it's an augmented reality filter, but you can't figure out how to turn it off. Ask for their help in figuring it out. Say, "I'm not sure what I installed, but now the cowboy hat won't disappear." They'll tell you that clearly the hat is real and you need to take it off. Mime taking it off and ask, "Did that work?" They'll say "no" and be mad at you. Eventually, everyone will just proceed with the meeting.Advertisement

Become a "pet guy"

Brian Feldman

If you work at home with any sort of non-human living creature, pretend to call into Zoom meetings as your pet. Hold your dog in front of your face and pretend to speak as them in high-pitched dogespeak ("lolspeak" if it's a cat). It will be cute once, but the trick here is to really commit to the bit and do it for the entire meeting. Go for a full hour straight to ensure that everyone absolutely hates you.

Call in from the outdoors

Brian Feldman
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Simple but effective. Many urban residents do not have access to private outdoor space. With the weather getting nicer, one of the easiest ways to mess with people on Zoom is to call in from your backyard or deck or patio. Don't bring it up directly; the imagery is enough.

Set your display name to "Reconnecting…"

Brian Feldman

Zoom lets users put anything in the name display box, but when users have connection issues, it changes to a status like "Reconnecting…" If you set this as your name, people will assume you have a shaky connection and aren't fully present, but also that you haven't bounced off of the call entirely. You exist in a quantum state as a Schrödinger's Zoom Participant.Advertisement

Take control of the camera

If you have a webcam with the right capabilities, you can remotely control someone else's camera. See if you can get access and get really close-up on their face. Try to pan out the window and see what's happening outside. Zoom in on their haggard-looking face, or their sad plant in the corner, or their annoyed looking partner in the background.

Use the whiteboard

Brian Feldman
Zoom's whiteboard function lets users annotate screen-shares with their own scribbles and ideas. Use it to scribble over key details so nobody can see them, and then when the admin erases your scribbles, put them back in. Or just draw phalluses. Give someone a funny mustache. Surprise your colleagues by drawing something that's really detailed and impressive and shows them that you have a life and disparates interests outside the bounds of your little Zoom cube.Advertisement

Brian Feldman is a full-time gamer living in Brooklyn. He writes about technology on occasion.

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