The Internet can be a magical place. It’s a place where friendships are formed, conspiracy theories thrive, a simple Google search can lead someone to believe they are an expert on everything and provides a never-ending vortex as a place to release their “knowledge.”
But the Internet can be a scary place as well. On January 23, 2016 a documentary will premiere on HBO focusing on a 2014 case where two young girls attempted to stab their friend to death for a meme. You heard me right…. a meme. They did it for Slender Man.
So who is Slender Man? He was born in June 2009 as a submission to comedy web forum Something Awful when a competition for a modern myth was posted. User Eric Knudsen photoshopped a tall, faceless figure in the background of a photo with an attached text saying 14 children and the photographer had gone missing.
It blew up. Before you knew it people were selling jewellery, t-shirts and art with Slender Man plastered all over it. Video games, drawings, fan stories and even “The Slender Man Challenge” bombarded the Internet. Slender Man went viral and people were either genuinely terrified or overly invested in this myth. This is what fuelled the 2014 case and soon to be documentary, Beware the Slenderman.
For these two 12-year-old girls the line between fact and fiction was blurred. And that’s why the Internet is so terrifying. Yes it brings people together and yes it can be an outlet for thoughts, but it is also a dangerous place where imaginations can run so wild that reality and make believe become intertwined.
Just watch the trailer and keep in mind that all this was caused by a meme. A make believe figure that went viral after been submitted online as an entry to a contest seven years ago.