Australian planking viral craze spreads to Britain
Prime Minister Gillard urges safety following planking death. Warnings only amplify the craze, says expert as Aussie viral craze spreads to Britain.
The planking internet viral craze has hit the UK, despite the death of a man in Australia, linked to planking.
A University of Queensland social media expert has criticised warnings delivered by authorities, saying they inflame the planking phenomenon.
Planking tipped over into tragedy at the weekend with the death of a young Australian man who plunged seven storeys from the balcony of a Brisbane apartment building.
Acton Beale, 20, is believed to be the first person killed while taking part in the fad that has swept Australia and has now come to Britain.
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard was moved on Monday to issue a public warning about the craze, following the death.
"Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first," she said.
Planking involves people having photos of them taken while lying face-down in a public place, often in dangerous circumstances, and posting the results on social networking websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.
In Australia, planking has saturated mainstream media in recent weeks, with the likes of Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Karl Stefanovic planking live on their TV shows.
The extent of the craze in Australia was brought to global attention last week following the issuing of a public warning by Gladstone police after they charged a man for planking on one of their squad cars.
Following the UK media’s coverage of the incident, images have begun appearing on the internet of people planking with British icons around London, such as on red phone booths and letter boxes and in front of Buckingham Palace.
University of Queensland communication and social media expert Nicholas Carah said that the issuing of the warning by police may have been counter-productive, reported Brisbane Times.
"By issuing a warning on a craze that isn’t a craze yet, like planking, police bring it out of the underground into the mainstream; they amplify it and make it, in a way, more visible and cooler.
"The police press release legitimised mainstream reporting of planking, but it has the counter-intuitive effect of inciting more people to do it," Carah said.
Queensland police said Mr Beale’s death confirmed their fears the craze would lead young people taking risks without realising the possible consequences.
"We don’t have any problem with planking itself," Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett told the ABC.
"If you want to take a photograph of yourself planking on a park bench two foot off the ground, there are no risks to your health with that, but when you start doing it seven storeys up or lying across a railway line or in a range of other places that invite death or serious injury, that’s what we have a concern about."
"Ultimately, is it worth life in a wheelchair to take a funny photo to impress somebody you don’t know on the internet?" Mr Barnett said.
He added that police had no regrets about publicising the craze on May 11 in the media statement about a man who had been charged for planking.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Mr Beale’s death was "really tragic" but should serve as a warning.
"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.