An Australian man died early Sunday morning after falling from a building while participating in a Facebook trend of “planking.”
The man, identified as Acton Beale, 20, fell seven stories from an apartment balcony in the Brisbane, Australia suburb of Kangaroo Point to his death. Those familiar with the matter say the man was participating in a new “planking” trend, perpetuated by social media.
“Planking” involves a person laying on his or her stomach an a precarious location, such as a basketball hoop, McDonald’s sign or even railroad tracks, while having their picture taken. The photo of the prone person, laying like a plank in these various locations, is then posted to the Web, more often than not on the social networking giant Facebook.
Planking has become an Internet sensation, especially on Facebook, where fan pages have thousands of followers. The official planking page has 116,000 followers, while the Australian-specific page has 55,000.
Beale’s death has drawn the attention of the Australian government, which urges “planksters” to use their heads before putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations, all for the glory of posting a comical photo to their Facebook.
“There’s a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that’s really safe and taking a risk with your life,” said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.”
Those who participate in the Internet pastime have defended the trend, denying that planking encourages people to put themselves in dangerous situations.
“Planking was started as a fun and quirky pastime,” said Sam Weckert, founder of the Australian planking page. “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. We would like to encourage all planking members as well as the media not to sensationalize this tragic event.”
The tragic news of Beale’s untimely death comes just one week after a man was charged for planking on the roof of a police car.