PLANKING - love it or loathe it, it's a perfect example of what the internet does best.
OK, second best after pornography.
For some reason, the world wide web, for all its capabilities as the greatest store of information and knowledge in the world, has an amazing capacity to make the silliest and most innocuous thing massive.
Why? Because it's easy. People are bored. And it's a cheap form of entertainment.
Before you scoff at "those silly kids and their planking ... why don't they go and get a job or volunteer, rant, rant, rant, get off my lawn", consider this: planking is really no different to those joke faxes that used to go from office to office before the internet became all-pervasive. Someone found something amusing and passed it on to someone else. Back in the '80s and early '90s, it was that faxed cartoon of the never-give-up frog choking a bird that was trying to swallow it, or it was an "anti-stress kit" that consisted of a circle reading "Bang Head Here".
Before that, pre-fax, it was sending "hilarious" postcards to your mates. Or telling jokes down at the pub. The principle is the same - someone found something funny and decided to share it with others. That funny thing happens to be a photo of yourself lying down in a strange position.
Arguments could be made that the emergence of planking is another sign of the dumbing down of society; while there's a certain amount of wit in those aforementioned faxes, any moron can lie down. Arguments could also be made that it's not actually funny.
But why is planking the latest thing that's gone viral through the power of the web? As mentioned, that's part of what the internet does- it takes the seemingly innocuous, shares it around, and suddenly everyone's seen it.
Actually, the internet doesn't do it. People do. Planking is just the latest fad - or "meme" as they're known on the web - to catch the attention of thousands, nay millions, of people just like you.
Why? Because the internet is a great time killer.
Think about how much time you spend on the internet. Firstly, most of it is probably on Facebook. While some people use this as a tool to communicate with long lost friends/relatives/strangers, the majority of the time you spent on Facebook today was probably a waste of time. Does anyone really care what you had for lunch? Or that your kids are so adorable/sending you crazy? Or that you totally hate someone right now?
What else do you do on the internet? Read the news, perhaps. Is all the news informative? Are you learning something? Probably not. You're wasting time.
Maybe you've been emailing. A lot of those emails are probably joke emails or spam (interesting side fact: spammers have to send out 12.5 million emails to sell $100 worth of viagra). Or maybe you've been watching clips on YouTube. Not exactly a productive use of time either. eBay? Blogs? Planking is just another time-waster. Much like your last status update.
"But planking is dangerous!" I hear you scream. "Someone died! Won't somebody think of the children?"
Planking isn't dangerous - it's just that some plankers are stupid.
For example, let's take that most common of childhood possessions - the bicycle. It's a rite of passage for most kids. The training wheels come off and away you go, having a laugh in the sun, getting exercise, riding around with your mates.
It's all fun and games until you ride your bike somewhere dangerous - off a ramp, down a big hill, along a bush track, in heavy traffic. Then you're likely to break your arm/kill yourself. It's just like planking - perfectly safe if you don't do it somewhere stupid.
Some of you are probably still thinking that planking is dumb. And maybe it is. But it's just the latest meme to take off and no one can predict what will become massive on the web. It's not anyone's fault - it's kind of everyone's fault, in a collective, hive mind sense. For some weird reason it struck a chord.
Maybe it's all just proof of what you always suspected - there are a lot of weirdos out there. As a wise man once said, the best thing about the internet is that it gives everyone a voice: the worst thing about the internet is that it gives everyone a voice.