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Stop Freaking Out About Momo

Robert Franklin

Posted on February 28, 2019 17:23

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Parents are in a fit about the Momo Challenge, an alleged social media fad that is said to target children and instruct them to cause themselves harm. But are parents jumping the gun a bit?

The other morning, my wife asked me if I had heard of the "Momo Challenge." I replied that I hadn't, so she proceeded to give me a rudimentary explanation. Immediately, I didn't buy that it was a thing. Maybe having been reared during multiple moral panics in the mid-1990s, I've learned to be automatically skeptical of things parents seem to freak out about en masse.

With my biases in mind, I decided to actually look into it before immediately forming judgment on its existence. After all, I could be wrong, right? Maybe I'm just being a cynical jerk about this.

Two days, and numerous articles, later, I'm not convinced its real. I'm actually leaning more in the direction that parents are freaking out over nothing.

However, I'm not surprised.

As I mentioned before, I'm intimately familiar with moral panics. When I was a kid, people were still freaking out about heavy metal music and Dungeons and Dragons, and its alleged powers to force otherwise God-fearing, pious, Christian boys into demonic sex cults (or some such nonsense). Oprah freaked out an entire country with stories about "rainbow parties." A single hit of the devil's lettuce doomed every otherwise God-fearing, pious, Christian boy into joining demonic D&D sex cults that have drug-fueled "rainbow parties" with heavy metal music. Oh, yeah, and there were pedophiles, for some reason.

It's 1998, do you know where your kids are?

This is the same kind of insanity that is feeding into the Momo Challenge. Chances are, this thing that has parents freaked out with their kids' Internet usage isn't even a thing. It's also possible that the pictures and literature supportive of the existence of the Momo Challenge may actually be caused by parents freaking out about the Momo Challenge, like a messed up "chicken or egg" scenario written by some troll on 4-Chan, or another twisted Creepypasta to be taken too seriously by a group of teenage girls.

Speaking to CNN, Snopes founder David Mikkelson said of the Momo Challenge:

"Is there a prevalent, global phenomenon of Momo popping up in kids' WhatsApp accounts and YouTube videos and urging them to harm themselves or others? That claim appears to be fear-driven exaggeration lacking in supportive evidence."

I cannot stress enough that no evidence exists supporting the notion that the Momo Challenge actually exists. However, as the Internet shows us repeatedly, that doesn't mean it cannot exist.

Panics like this always carry with them the capacity to become reality after the fact. This is especially true since the emergence of social networks. The very vehicles that drive these fears provide matrices for people to then take that fear and turn it into reality. Whether motivated by hate, boredom, or an insatiable desire for "lulz," there are always people aiming to use the Internet for less-than-prosocial reasons.

Kids, unfortunately, are an easy target for these kinds of people -- a trait shared by their well-meaning, but skittish, parents.

Robert Franklin

Posted on February 28, 2019 17:23

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Source: Politico

Since the election, our fussing over "fake news" has ballooned into a full-blown moral panic. Moral panics are the term sociologists...

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