Posted in Sociology | By Bret Bucklen |
Wow, I must be getting old! You know you’re getting old when you just learn about a pop culture trend which has apparently been around for over a year. And so was the case this weekend when my soon to be sister-in-law taught me via facebook about “planking.” According to wikipedia, planking “is an activity, popular in various parts of the world, consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body, and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part…” Apparently the fad is to capture the most creative picture of oneself “planking” in a public place, and post it on facebook or some other social media venue. Probably the best way to describe planking is to show a picture of it. Here’s planking:
This discovery of planking (and of its recent spinoff- “owling”- we won’t go there) got me to thinking about why such seemingly bizarre fads catch on with young people. Keep in mind that I graduated with an undergrad degree in Sociology, so I tend to view things through a sociological lens. I really have nothing concrete to offer here in terms of a cohesive theory for why planking caught on. One thing I believe though, from a sociological standpoint no fad is ever simply meaningless (although it may be intended to express meaninglessness). There is some reason (or combination of reasons) to explain its existence. It may be simple or it may be deep. I’m pretty sure that in the case of my soon to be sister-in-law it’s a simple explanation: she’s poking fun at a goofy trend (I actually got some great laughs out of her pictures on facebook this past weekend). But I also think about my youth specialist friend Walt Mueller (President, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding), who talks about the notion that youth trends serve as a “mirror” into the worldview of our young people. What are we seeing in this particular mirror? Is this some sort of narcissism? Is this existentialism, perhaps even a throwback to the “theatre of the absurd?” Or am I reading too much into it? Maybe it’s just a game, but why this game? What does this say about youth culture?
Five hundred years from now, are our descendents going to sit in a Humanities 101 class and analyze planking photographs to discuss the worldview of our time and culture, similar to how I had to sit through pictures of ancient greek statues in my Humanities class and discuss the worldview of that time?