Thick as planks

There is a new craze sweeping across Facebook and the Internet. “Planking” involves lying face down with your hands by your sides; preferably on top of weird, interesting or dangerous things. What was simply a bizarre underground Internet fad has captured the attention of the Australian police and the media. Soon after planking hit the mainstream, a young man in Queensland died during an apparent planking stunt gone wrong. News.com.au reports:

In what is thought to be Australia’s first planking fatality, Acton Beale, 20, of Kangaroo Point, slipped when he tried to plank on a 5cm wide balcony railing outside his front door…

By 8am this morning the Planking Australia Facebook page had more than 85,000 followers, up from 65,000 last night and growing by the hour. New planking pages were opened in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway, while the trend is also attracting a huge amount of interest in the United States.

“I didn’t know about planking til I heard the news. This is not a dangerous sport promoting stupidity. It’s just a random thing for fun as far as I’m concerned. That death is no different to teens drinking and driving or jumping from the balcony to a pool,” Nick Möllerswrites.
It’s not just ordinary people involved in the planking fad, B list celebrities are also getting in on the action, with notorious trouble maker and Footy Show regular Sam Newman photographing himself planking. Ninemsn reports:
Photos have emerged of Footy Show star Sam Newman “planking” on the railing of a 40-storey balcony, taken hours before a Queensland man fell to his death attempting a similar stunt.
Sam Newman "planking" off the balcony of his high rise apartment
Professional idiot Sam Newman doing his best to dispel Darwin’s theory of evolution
Sam Newman isn’t the only one. Prior to Acton’s death, Kerry Anne Kennerly and Karl Stevanovic were both filmed planking on their respective morning shows.
Social media allows silly memes like planking to spread much quicker and much more widely than was ever possible before. The mainstream media is immensely fascinated by this process, and provides considerable attention to these little fads as they pop up. Not only does this allow the fad to spread even more quickly, but it also has the effect of making something seem much more important, or dangerous than it already is.
Planking has allegedly been around since 2006. The facebook planking page has over one hundred thousand fans but only a single confirmed death. Given that the odds of dying from falling off a ladder are roughly one in ten thousand, it could be argued that using a ladder is ten times more dangerous than planking.
A man planking on top of a ladder

The odds of dying on a ladder do increase somewhat if you're planking on it at the time

Regardless, a young man has died performing the stunt, and people are understandably upset. In the wake of a tragedy people naturally look for someone or something to blame. Shortly before Acton’s death, the Brisbane police issued a statement warning the public about planking after they arrested a man for planking on a police car. Some critics feel that the the police statement had the unintended effect of encouraging planking by bringing it to the attention of the public. Others feel it is the fault of media outlets for reporting on the craze or people like Sam Newman for encouraging it. News.com, I think, have identified the real cause of this death:
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett say Mr Beale’s companion had confirmed the 20-year-old had been drinking before the fatal incident.
Most people will have at least one story of a drinking prank gone wrong; when they, or someone they know, has injured themselves after having a little too much to drink and doing something they shouldn’t. Unfortunately in this instance, a young man has died. While that is a tragedy, it is unfortunately all too common.
The real culprits are alcohol and foolishness. We have become so used to the negative consequences of drinking that they’re almost invisible to us now. There has been a lot of scare mongering about the potential danger of planking, when the real problem is actually a lot more culturally ingrained and widespread.
The Australian Bureau of statistics estimates that there are 3000 deaths in Australia per year due to alcohol, from either health related complications or accident and injury through misadventure. We should be much more concerned with teaching people responsible drinking practices than we should with trying to deal with the negative consequences of planking.
Perhaps the most intelligent piece of advice when it comes to planking has come from Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard:

“There’s a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that’s really safe and taking a risk with your life,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.”

Read More:
Alcohol related Statistics South Australian government

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8 Comments on “Thick as planks”

  1. May 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    I have never in my life heard of something so incredibly stupid. I’ve actually never heard about this game/activity before I read your blog posting on the subject. I, for one, shall not be attempting any sort of planking. Sheesh.

  2. Andrew
    May 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I think if a person woke up from a 10 year coma, saw planking and its media exposure, would be having a massive wtf has society become moment.

    It is not the first thing seen like this (Hamish and Andy: Ghosting) but what I find weird about it is the way it has been adopted by older demographics.

    I belong to probably the most attracted group of people to planking (young males) but I am yet to form an opinion about it either way, is there something wrong with me?

  3. James Hill
    May 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Sadly, planking isn’t neither the first nor the dumbest potentially dangerous fad to sweep the Internet. In 2006 there were loads of people “Ghost riding the whip,” which involves getting out of your moving car, dancing around on the street and getting back in. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost-riding) There are loads of youtube videos of people doing this.
    I don’t think planking is as bad as that. You can at least plank in a way that is funny but not necessarily dangerous. Of course, young guys have a tendency to try to outdo each other, and when you combine this with alcohol, you wind up with people getting hurt or killed.

  4. May 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    I remember seeing an animated .gif of some guy years ago, perhaps in 2006, doing what is now apparently known as Planking, in a classroom, and through stop-motion animation of dozens of photos, it appeared as though he was slithering up and across and over the furniture. At the time, it was very amusing.

    Now, this has gone way too far. Something is only cool when you’re the only one that thought of it. Something definitely enters the unrecoverable realm of UNCOOL AND LAME when Kerry Anne Kennerly does it.

    Remember when there was a guy photographing (I think it was) a can of Campbells soup in every city he visited while travelling? After that developed an Internet fanbase, every tourist loser started photographing random shit in all their city photos. Pikachus, dolls, that dude who videoed himself dancing in every city…. well even though I thought that was lame, at least people had a unique take on it.

    What, I am loathe to imagine, will all the unique takes on Planking be???

  5. James Hill
    May 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    There’s already planking variants on facebook and other social media, including “teapotting.” The rate these fads appear and disappear appears to be accelerating. It’s like the quicker they spread the shorter their lifespan

  6. Nekit
    May 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Damn, nigga!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Planking: 10 things you didn’t need to know about it. « One Life - June 9, 2011

    […] I found another blog post about the craze. Worth a read. Here’s another great post about planking. […]

  2. “Planking” | Adrian Hummel - July 1, 2011

    […] did planking get started? I have no idea but if you want to learn more about it then this is a good post about […]

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