IS it worth life in a wheelchair to take a funny photo to impress somebody you don’t know on the internet?
This is the question police in Australia have posed after a man died on Sunday after taking part in the latest craze going viral on the internet — “planking”.
Acton Beale, 20, plunged to his death after positioning himself for a picture on a balcony railing seven floors up in Brisbane after a night out drinking.
He was a “planker”, a fast-growing group of people who lie flat on their stomachs with their arms against their bodies — to resemble a plank — in unusual and sometimes dangerous situations.
Photographs of their exploits are then shared through social media sites.
Little-known until last week when a man was charged with planking on a police car, the Planking Australia Facebook page has seen its number of fans soar from under 10,000 four days ago to almost 122,000 yesterday.
The craze, and news of Beale’s death, has sparked copycat Facebook sites around the world, including Planking Ireland, Planking UK, Planking USA, Planking France and Planking Germany.
But police are worried that the fad could spin out of control. “We don’t have any problem with planking itself,” said Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett.
“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?”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard also had words of caution on Monday.
“This (death) is a really tragic thing — there’d be a family that’s just devastated today.
“So, my message would be everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.”
Sam Weckert, the founder of the Facebook page dedicated to planking in Australia, said “planking was started as a fun and quirky past-time”.
“While we have no control over the actions of others we’d like to encourage any members of the planking group and the general public to undertake this in a safe and responsible fashion.”
The term now has a Wikipedia entry.
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