By now, you’ve probably heard of the “Florida Man Challenge,” in which people search their birth date followed by “Florida man” to find wacky headlines about Florida people doing wacky things. No matter the birth date, there’s always a headline to get a good laugh out of, but there are some things about the challenge that are no laughing matter.
Florida man headlines as memes are not new but have only recently been linked to birthdays. A Florida man Twitter feed was created in early 2013 to display these stories, and the Florida Man Challenge blew up in March.
There are many theories for why Florida people do crazy things. Some people think it could be because of the state’s large and varied demographic, while others think it could be the weather, but the real reason is that Florida has strong public records laws (aka Sunshine Laws), so journalists can easily get their hands on police incident reports.
There are some Florida man stories that are downright absurd, but there are others that are just depressing and scary. For example, the headline, “Florida man charged with sending pipe bombs to Democrats expected to plead guilty” is terrifying. Another, more recent headline, “Young alligator beaten, given cigarette on video; Florida man arrested,” is sad and disturbing. These headlines mislead the public into thinking that Florida has a high crime rate. It actually shows that the mental health of Florida residents is becoming a big issue. The near-epidemic of mental health issues is not helped by the fact that Florida ranks at the bottom of all states for mental health funding.
Florida man stories only put more stereotypes on Floridians, and they may harm the people who post them. Scammers could use your birthdate to get one step closer to hacking into your personal accounts or financial data. These scams happen on social media all the time, but they ask for more information than just your birthday — they ask for information that could appear on any website’s list of security questions.
There is an upside to the Florida man headlines, which could come in the form of a new card game called “Florida Man: The Card Game,” similar to Cards Against Humanity. A Kickstarter campaign for the game has been started so the creators can print the cards for the game, and the goal is $15,000. The headline cards will all be true events that took place in Florida, so players will be knowledgeable about wacky Floridians while having a good laugh.
Although the Florida Man happenings can yield a good laugh, be mindful of the mental issues that may be lying underneath. (Also, weirdness isn’t limited to just Florida.)
Charlotte Caldwell is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Charlotte? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.