Can social media change human behaviour? Have you ever done one of the following: planked, dabbed, dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over your head, did 22 pushups in 22 days, thrown a half-empty (or half-full, if you’re an optimist) water bottle at a table to try and get it to land upright? If you answered yes to any one of these, I would argue that social media has influenced your behaviour…and yes, I answered yes to one or two… maybe three of these things!
The latest viral phenomenon that seems to be flooding social media feeds is clowning – dressing up as a creepy clown to incite fear on the public. Earlier this week the clowns made headlines in our city, with clown sightings and numerous online threats of violence made by local “clowns.”
Benjamin Bradford, the author of Bad Clowns, was on CBC’s The Current earlier this week to try and make sense of what is causing this epidemic. A “bad clown” according to Bradford, is a prankster who dresses up to incite fear on the public. Bradford explains how clowning is not a new phenomenon. In October 2013, a 22-year old filmmaker terrorized a small British town of Northampton, England; he would go around town dressed up as a clown and get a couple of friends to film and take pictures of him, which were then uploaded online and quickly went viral.
Bradford attributes the rapid spread of clowning to social media and the fascination our society has with clowns: “[the] clown phenomenon is ready-made for social media. It’s perfect right? You have this [clown] figure that is well-known, a well-known archetype, with the Joker and John Wayne Gacy and all these actual genuine scary clowns in pop culture and in real life, that sort of crystallize into this figure that it’s both humorous and scary.”
Despite how creepy this phenomenon seems to be; it is worth noting that there has yet to be any deaths attributed to clowning. Personally, I don’t see the appeal in putting on a clown mask and terrorizing my neighbors; however, I understand how social media affects our behavior – as I confessed earlier, I have been susceptible to mimic behavior found on social media.
I am sure time will pass and clowning will be left behind with the plank and the dab. Stephen King seems to think it is time to move on from clowning according to his tweet:
Canoe.com News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from http://cnews.canoe.com/CNEWS/Crime/2016/10/06/22672835.html
Creepy Clown [Image file]. Retrieved from https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/old_wire/img/upload/2013/10/16/clown/lead_large.jpg?1473195235
CTV News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from http://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/two-creepy-clown-sightings-in-fort-saskatchewan-rcmp-1.3104818
King, S. [StephenKing]. (2016, October 3). Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria — most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/StephenKing/status/783018957263568896
Metro News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2016/10/07/edmonton-teen-charged-for-threats-against-ottewell-school.html
Simpson, C. (2013, October 16). Northampton solves the mystery of the creepy clown. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/northampton-clown-unmasked/309900/
Tremonti, A. (2016, October 6). Creepy clown sightings set off mass hysteria across North America [Radio broadcast]. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/radio/popup/audio/listen.html?autoPlay=true&clipIds=&mediaIds=2695934081&contentarea=radio&subsection1=radio1&subsection2=currentaffairs&subsection3=the_current&contenttype=audio&title=2016/10/06/1.3792737-creepy-clown-sightings-set-off-hysteria-across-north-america-&contentid=1.3792737