Humans are crazy.
We have this innate knack for doing things that could harm us. And surprisingly, most of the time, these things that we do aren’t even well thought of! I vividly remember doing things as a child that still send chills to my skin. When I was around thirteen years old every time I accidentally spend all my allowance (including the one for my jeepney fare), I would always join my two best friends with hitching on trucks that pass by our village when we’re going home. We would usually just wait for a truck near the tricycle terminal at the back of our school, because they need to slow down in near school areas. This made it easier for us to run after the trucks and safely grab on the railings at the back. We would hitch a ride up until the entrance of our village. We’re lucky if they we’re slowing down when they’re near our area, but during those times that they don’t we would just time our jumps so we can get off. This memory makes me shiver. Imagine, I was thirteen. The chance of any of us three falling down and killing ourselves was real. But the thing is I have never even though of it during that time. What was on my mind was this simple thought: I need to go home. Those experiences are something that I don’t want any of my future kids to do. It’s a very careless act, I guess brought about by my age that time.
Now, here’s the thing. Humans regardless of age are (kind of) stupid. We do things, just because we want to. However most of the time, we do crazy things because of the fact that we just want to imitate someone. Or sometimes when we see an act that seems cool or challenging we do it to satisfy our curiosity.
The internet has changed the world in a lot of ways. It’s birth created a whole new world of experiences and meaning for it’s users. This platform enabled us to be more connected with each other thus creating faster propagation of content and knowledge. Alongside the spread of good content and information came the dawn of internet fads. To relate this to what I mentioned above, about how crazy humans are with trying weird and crazy acts. It’s now a lot faster to share them.
The picture above shows a few examples of what we call planking. Now, not to confuse you with an exercise move with the same name and kind of looks similar too:
WHAT IS PLANKING?
Planking, also called The Lying Down game is an internet fad that involves lying face down with arms to the sides in unusual public spaces, photographing the scene and sharing the image online. (knowyourmeme.com/memes/planking)
Just like any internet meme or fad, the history of it’s origins are still debated up to know. There are numerous groups that claim to have started the phenomenon. But since there are different variations and sources of the stories, it’s really hard to know the exact origin of planking. The rise of planking’s popularity seemed to have sparked when a rugby David “Wolfman” Williams did it during one of their matches on 2011.
Considered right after as a kind of game. Planking quickly became a sensation to youths specifically in Australia. An official Facebook page was also critical in spreading the craze, and was able to get around over 130,000 followers within a week. A riot of blogs soon followed hosting images related to planking. A few of these are: BestPlank, PlankingMission, iPlanking, Plank.it and Planking.me. The attention became more widespread when personalities and celebrities caught up with the craze. Here’s a video of a collection of photos planking:
With the sudden rise of it’s popularity the official Facebook page also created a sort of guideline when planking:
Rules of Planking
1. You must always lay face down, ensuring your face remains expressionless for the duration of the Plank.
2. Your legs must remain straight, and together with toes pointed.
3. Your arms must be placed by your side, held straight and fingers pointed.
4. You must make it known that you are Planking. Saying ‘I am Planking’ usually get this across. Sternly announcing it will ensure a good result.
5. Your safety should always be considered. Properly thought through Planking procedures should always go to plan. Never put your self at undue risk.
6. Every Plank that is captured must be named.
Now, If you think about it the concept is pretty simple and basic. It involves a person that needs to do a pose, hold it for a few seconds and then ask someone to take a picture that can be then shared online. So what’s the big deal?
As I’ve mentioned in my introduction, we as a species are crazy. We like to do things that we think will make us exceptional. In the case of planking, a lot of people have pushed the boundaries of this craze and took some wild photos.
They’re great, right! Imagine the thrill of doing a plank on the most mundane of places or weirdest of situations. However there was an event that sparked a controversy about the dangers of planking:
Acton Beale, 20, fell from the balcony of a block of flats in Brisbane, Queensland, after he tried to ‘plank’ on some railings.
This is thought to be the first time someone has actually died from the growing craze in which people lie face down in an unusual place before taking pictures and uploading them onto the internet. It is thought that Mr Beale was on his way home after a night out with friends when he decided to try the high-risk move. Deputy Police Commissioner Ross Barnett confirmed reports that he ‘may have fallen while attempting a planking episode’. Officers were told by witnesses that Mr Beale had been preparing to lie on a balcony rail when he fell to his death. ‘He has tragically lost his footing and fallen to the ground below,’ said Mr Barnett.
This event sparked a big controversy regarding the act of planking. Australia has since then implemented rules prohibiting planking on certain places.
PLANKING AND NEW MEDIA IDIOCY
“Idiocy does not equal stupidity; however, it is worth considering the two concepts alongside each other as a means of introduction, as they are sometimes used interchangeably in the history of philosophical enquiry.” (Goruinova p224)
Planking just like a lot of internet crazes tickled the minds of a lot people. It’s hard to explain the drive that pushes us to do these things but as what the article mentioned:
“New media idiocy has a formal relationship with simplicity that acquires its own ormalist quality, almost a formalist coherency. Such simplicity is rooted in a certain naivety that is required to synthesize freely and globally6 at a level where every element in the composition is positioned in order to be able to speak independently as well as be immersed in a global ‘porridge’. ‘Simplicity’ is the certain naivety that allows a non-professional to speak” (Goruinova p228)
The appeal of the planking game is it’s simplicity. The idea and rules that governs the act is basic. This creates a lot of relationship to the viewer. First, it makes them think that it is very doable. Second it makes them think “Ok, how do I make mine different”. It is with the latter that the planking game evolves into a crazier and more dangerous stunt.
Planking has since mellowed down into a historical internet craze. As with any other internet fad most of them are temporary.
I still am very much intrigue by the concept of idiocy, the fact that there is only a thin line between that and stupidity. Our nature as humans make us prone to appreciating things because of some instinctive sensibilities inside us. Planking is a great example of a simplistic idea that caught on because of these basic rules. And since the world is getting smaller because of technology and the internet, we can expect a lot more of these internet crazes.
Oh, by the way I was a part of the planking craze way back in 2011.