They are everywhere; on top of cars, in the streets, in the grass, on the roof, and in the basement. Wooden planks have appeared unlooked for in many perplexing locations. Or at least I thought they were wooden planks. Upon further inspection, it was made clear that those wooden planks are not actually made of wood at all, they are made of people. Planking is a relatively new meme involving a person laying perfectly straight face down on the ground in unusual places. The meme is perpetrated by simply laying down in a seemingly hilarious place to be lying down in and taking a picture. Planking is performed by acting like a piece of wood, but the idea, or the irony of the setting, is what makes it a popular meme.
Tom Green takes credit for inventing the trend in 1994 where during one of his television episodes where he is filmed lying down on an Ottawa sidewalk as a prank. He later publicized the name of the action by posting on his twitter account that he caught himself “planking”. The meme itself has not changed much over time, but perhaps in the years to come it will. Currently the evolution of planking is shown by trying to find increasingly more outlandish places to perform the meme.
The meme is widely replicated probably because the hardest aspect involved is the action of lying flat on your face. It is also easy to duplicate because it can be done literally anywhere that you can find a place to lay down at. It can also be done at absolutely anytime, in fact, the general idea is to do it in the most obscure locations are the most incomprehensible times. According to Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine, “memes spread themselves around indiscriminately without regard to whether they are useful, neutral, or positively harmful to us”. I cannot see planning being useful to people what so ever. Lying face down in different location can be considered to be detrimental to a person. Many people have chosen to plank in dangerous location, and the meme has even resulted in a planking death. In fact, I think if planking were any harder to replicate, it would be extinct by now.
Planking is just one meme in a greater memeplex involving unlikely poised bodies in unlikely places. Other memes including “Tebowing” named after the NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. This meme involves taking a knee and bowing your head to your fist as if praying. There is also “batmanning” which involves taking a picture of you hanging upside down and “owling” where the individual squats like an owl. Each of these memes abide by the same principles as planking; the more outrageous the location, the greater the success.
According to scientist Richard Dawkins, evolution is comprised of the three components variation, heredity, and differential fitness. This applies to both the genetic makeup of human being and the behavior trends they follow. A meme must experience variation, have the ability to be passed down through generations, and survive competition over time. I fail to believe wholly that a meme must experience variation but it certainly needs the ability to adapt. This adaptation will allow it to better compete and stand the test of time. The meme must be applicable to generation after generation to truly survive. A problem with meme theory is that unlike in genetics where heredity is very much pre-determined and unalterable based on your parents, the inheritance of memes is much more liberal. People inherit hundreds of memes from numerous different sources. This provides a much more indiscriminate culmination of an individual, which could make it hard to follow the pattern of meme inheritance.