Planking Internet Meme Takes Its First Life

Safety first, kids.

By , Columnist

For generations, mothers the world over have been telling their children, "Don't lick the cat" and "It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt."

Due to the growing popularity of Internet memes such as planking, a pastime where people photograph themselves lying face down in strange and precarious places, this advice is as relevant today for entertainment-fed teens as it was 20 years ago, before the Internet, when the worst crime you could participate in involved pointy sticks. For the participants of this relatively new social networking-based fad, it is viewed as harmless fun.

Unfortunately, young adults often fail to grasp repercussions or gauge risk as well as older adults, and it is young adults who are primarily participating in planking. While uploaded Facebook images of people posing horizontally on shopping trolleys, mailboxes or even llamas may be a pleasant change from odd-angled bathroom shots, duckface kissing photos and pictures of Tibble in her new collar because "OMG she is so cute," there is no denying the potential dangers. As someone who could be described as "balance impaired" on the best of days, if I was to participate in planking, I would do it somewhere near floor level, like a floor. But there will always be those who push the envelope.

Sometimes when an envelope is pushed, it pushes back harder. On Sunday, Acton Beale, a 20-year-old Australian, lost his life trying to one-up his Facebook friends by posing on a two-inch railing several stories above a concrete sidewalk, when he slipped and fell.

Acton was the first reported death in the growing fad, which began in 2006 when U.K. teens Gary Clarkson and Christian Langdon created The Lying Down Game.

In recent months, the game has received much attention on Facebook, and sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, has gained around 30,000 new "likes" since Beale's death.

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Holly is a freelance writer and copy editor with a background in journalism and publishing. Like a grandmother's purse, she is about three decades old, worn around the edges and mostly full of crap.

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