From Planking to Clowning

From Planking to Clowning

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:

Sources: News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from

Creepy Clown [Image file]. Retrieved from

CTV News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from

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

Metro News [Image, screen capture]. Retrieved from

Simpson, C. (2013, October 16). Northampton solves the mystery of the creepy clown. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Tremonti, A. (2016, October 6). Creepy clown sightings set off mass hysteria across North America [Radio broadcast]. Retrieved from


11 thoughts on “From Planking to Clowning

  1. The part that scares me about this is all the things you listed in your first paragraph are harmless. Even some of them are really positive ways that human behaviour is influences by social media. I do get the connection through and I really hope your right that soon this clowning will be left behind with the dabbing and planking!!

    It is crazy how these trends have started just because it becomes so popular and trending on places like Facebook. I remember the summer everyone was doing the ice bucket challenge I was patiently waiting and excited for when I would get nominated.

    Good job on all the sources you included. I like how you quoted multiple people in different backgrounds!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So did you get nominated??

      It is definitely a creepy and disturbing trend in comparison to the other trends that I mentioned! I would not categorize clowning as a trend like the ice bucket challenge or the push-up challenge — those trends, like you mentioned, can enable a lot of good behaviour, for a good cause.

      It is just worrisome that activity that could be potentially harmful (clowning) can influence the public as much as doing push ups for PTSD or dumping ice water on your head for ALS… The internet is a scary place!!


      1. I did get nominated! Hahaha and I had my video all planned out and ready to go.

        But yes I do totally get your comparison. The internet is a very scary and influential place!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And the thing is, they do get a lot of responses. at first it was just a lot of people saying how funny it was and what not. but then as these clowns eventually began to make threats and become violent…..many are posting their responses of #whatwouldyouifyousawaclown? on different social media platforms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very good point! It is interesting how a lot of viral phenomena can start off with a couple of people trying to get a laugh on their social media page — like the story of the Northampton Clown — and how quickly it can erupt and become something that, perhaps, it was not originally intended to be.

      I have definitely watched a few “clown chasing” videos online, and it is rather disturbing the fear/violence/anger that seems to be attached to clowning… Maybe the real clowns need to unite and bring back the happy, funny clown persona!


  3. I agree that clowning is mostly harmless. But do you think that, since clowns are a source of fear for so many people, that clowning might count as harassment more than planking or dabbing would? When you plank, you look like a bit of an idiot. But clowning seems to have the intent of causing a panic, however mild.

    It’s definitely stupid internet meme material. But I wonder if it’s a little more morally questionable than some of the other fads out there.


  4. I would agree that, without a doubt, clowning leans towards harassment. I feel as though clowning, as a viral phenomenon, could be compared to more malicious trends such as the “knockout game,” where people go around sucker punching innocent bystanders. Obviously, the knockout game is physically harmful to the public, whereas clowning could be considered emotionally harmful, as you alluded to.

    I guess the point I was trying to get across is that most of us are susceptible to behave in accordance with viral trends found on social media. Sometimes these trends are harmless (planking or dabbing); sometimes for a good cause (ALS ice bucket challenge or push-up challenge for PTSD awareness); and sometimes they can be harmful (clowning or the knockout game). I guess it comes down to the morals of the individual who chooses to follow one of these trends. What does that tell us about our society? I haven’t a clue!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s