Japing: A new form of social protest


Salar Cheema

Senior Rithvik Vanga japes by throwing a paper airplane in study hall.

Salar Cheema, Staff Contributor

Each year, students in the United States undergo immense stress during their senior year due to college applications, scholarship deadlines and increased academic demands. To prevent these looming threats from affecting their last year in high school, many students at PV have picked up a new coping strategy: japing. 

The literal meaning of “jape” is to say or do something in jest or mockery, so some seniors have adopted the word to classify messing around, acting deviant and having fun. Ultimately, japing is meant to be harmlesstapping someone’s shoulder and then walking the other way or yelling someone’s name and immediately hiding.

While the whole world seems to be collapsing due to new variants of COVID-19, seniors at PV have persevered through challenging times by seeking enjoyment in the simplest of manners. Although it is essential to concentrate on global issues, many high school students already face countless mental health problems, so it is also important for students to enjoy themselves.

Senior Rithvik Vanga has personally experienced the social and psychological benefits of japing. “Japing helped me and my friends recover into a state of tranquility in the midst of this rage-inducing pandemic. It helps me express myself in a way that does not harm my surroundings, but could also lighten the mood for my fellow classmates,” he said. Vanga expressed how japing can entertain other students who might also be facing personal problems due to COVID-19, college applications and excessive schoolwork.

Besides providing enjoyment, japing or being deviant can have broader impacts. Trever Zahn teaches about the importance of deviance in his sociology class. “Deviance is necessary to make changes in society. If people never challenge the status quo, then norms remain constant,“ he stated. Many people stay in their comfort zones and avoid taking risks, but this does not prompt social change. As long as students maintain a certain level of respect, they should jape in order to challenge unfair rules and improve society.

Zahn even expressed that being deviant lets students “test the rules to see if they work, such as when the school enacts a new policy and students will test their boundaries to see how strictly it will be enforced.” For example, a few students have ordered pizza to school this year to test the high school’s closed campus lunch policy. Such actions effectively persuaded the school to increase security and issue a new announcement stressing the policy in order to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Deviant behavior has the potential to enact change, which benefits society as a whole. To illustrate this point, Zahn provided multiple historical examples of how deviance has impacted society. “It can lead to social change, like the nonviolent protests led by MLK Jr. or Gandhi, and it can lead to innovation in business like the work of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg,” he said.

Even though japing has its benefits, some students have taken it too far. In September of 2021, the popular “devious lick” TikTok trend encouraged vandalism of school utilities and created unnecessary work for janitors around the country. Students should jape to have fun, but japing and any other acts of lighthearted disruption should never be above the law. Theft and vandalism have serious consequences, so this form of deviance should be discouraged because it is not considered japing.

Furthermore, students have recently started to play pranks on the school by hijacking the intercom system. Although this does not seriously harm anyone, such actions interrupt students’ learning by interjecting into their teachers’ lectures. Japing is a great way to step outside of one’s comfort zone and gain recognition, but it should not be done at the expense of teachers and other staff members.

Overall, japing can help alleviate the extreme stress produced by school. However, one should strive to stay within the given limitations of japing. It is intended to be peaceful and is meant to bring about positive change through community enjoyment; it is not an excuse for crime. 

As a frequent user of the term “jape,” Vanga claimed, “I do not believe japing is a perverse course of action, but it is one that can accompany positivity to inspire production of a constructive initiative.” 

If we use japing as a means of entertaining others and changing social norms, we can change the school for the better and, just as importantly, have fun while we are at it.