Some social trends come and go. Think goldfish swallowing, streaking and dwarf tossing at your favorite neighborhood bar. Other social trends, however, might start out silly, fun or even useful but then morph into something twisted, out-of-control — or even dangerous. A UCLA professor once claimed an adult male could eat up to 150 live goldfish without suffering any bodily harm, but several of the following trends that have gotten out of hand have the power to kill you in an instant.
The fine trend of planking involves lying down face-first in an oddball location while someone else merrily snaps your photo. The photo is then rapidly uploaded on your favorite social media site and … suddenly you’ve become a hero. What started as a goofy trend turned deadly this summer when a man looking for a place to plank in Australia picked a seventh-story balcony rail. Plankers have been spotted pretty much everywhere, including the middle of the street, the top of rock formations and other locales that range from office buildings to parking garages, stairway banisters to the bottom shelf of a convenience store refrigerator. Those who think planking sounds wholly idiotic need not fret — it’s being replaced by a new craze called “owling.” Owling still involves perching in a precarious location, although instead of lying face-first you squat like an owl with your hands supporting your body weight on either side of your teetering feet.
4. Flash Mobs
Flash mobs are groups that generally organize via social media then meet in a predetermined location to do amusing things like dance, have pillow fights or act out skits. The trend turned from harmless fun into something more sinister in 2011, as the flash mob evolved into the “flash rob.” Flash robs consist of hordes of people who stream into stores and snatch up anything they can get their hands on. Store policies don’t particularly work in favor of nabbing the mobbing robbers, with employees reportedly fired for risking their own lives to chase them down. “It is mob behavior but it has some premeditation which is a new thing,” Loss Prevention Research Council Director Read Hayes told the Wall Street Journal. “But it’s pretty scary for employees, or any customers who happen to be in stores when this happens.” Even more troubling, police in several major U.S. cities have investigated incidents in which crowds attacked innocent bystanders.
3. Reality TV
Dysfunction is bad enough in real life, but now it has made stars out of those who engage in it on national television. A show here and there about people surviving on a desert island or becoming overnight stars for their singing might have been OK, but many social critics say the ensuing flood of such programs has truly gone too far. So have some of the shows’ antics, with screaming and slapping and stunts that make Jerry Springer look like Disney. Critics call the reality TV obsession a waste of time, and some say the shows could take a psychological toll on viewers. PsychologyToday.com likens the shows to ancient Rome’s gladiator events, calling them a bloodsport. And just how many times can we watch housewives catfight, drunken Jersey kids cavort and fat people get thin in the name of prize-winning, anyway?
Take a teen for a night on the town, a day in the park or even an extended vacation in Europe and you’ll probably find him or her 22 steps behind, furiously texting. So much for the breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower. Texting can be handy, but it has definitely gotten out of hand, especially for teens such as 13-year-old Reina Hardesty of California, who tallied a total of 14,528 text messages in a single month in 2008. That breaks down to 484 messages per day, or one every two minutes while the girl is awake. The average teen sends about 10,000 texts per year, U.K.’s The Telegraph reports, enough to miss a lot of what’s going on in the world around them. Then there are the people who text while driving, which has already been blamed for as many as 16,000 traffic fatalities between 2002 and 2007, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health. It makes you wonder what type of message is so important to put lives at risk — or miss a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower.
1. Facebook Obsession
Facebook was fun. Once. Now it’s become more like an epidemic. To be fair, it can still be fun for catching up with friends or finding out if that long-gone boyfriend ever tied the knot, but it can also start to rule your life. We could wager it is ruling the lives of at least 48 percent of the 18 to 34 year olds who check their Facebook page first thing in the morning, or the 28 percent of those who check their Facebook page on their smart phones before they even get out of bed. Other stunning stats from the OnlineSchools.org website reveal 71 percent of American web users are on Facebook, although it did not reveal how many lost their jobs posting nasty messages about their bosses or spending more time farming on Farmville than they spend doing actual work. Nor did it mention the rapid decay of face-to-face social skills due to the 57 percent of Facebook users who say they talk to people online more frequently than they do in real life. Facebook, for many, has become the only real life they know. That’s no fun whatsoever. Somebody pass the goldfish.