Movement to windex the Bean in Chicago
Georgetown students have invited singer Lorde to come pet Jack the Bulldog on April 8, 2018. They have also asked the Killers to come perform their hit song “Mr. Brightside” in a sweaty Henle, Georgetown’s party central, on Jan. 10. Chicagoans put together a movement to Windex the Bean, the iconic sculpture, on Nov. 15 of this year. Others have moved to paint the Bean black in order to prevent this. Earlier this autumn, people considered heading to the coast to spin their arms really fast to push away hurricane Irma. The common denominator of these various ongoings? They are all real Facebook events.
Weird Facebook has recently flooded all of our timelines; nonsensical events that we all wished were actually real. The pages put forth absurd solutions to concrete problems, or highlight an unrealistic goal. Thousands are typically involved, but rarely does anything come of it.
But why? Though the main motivation behind the appearance of these events is most certainly humour, they also mask a desire to control the incontrolable. Dozens of events similar to the hurricane Irma one described above appeared a very short time before the hurricane hit the U.S. Though they all differ greatly, a common theme is nonetheless apparent: an implicit desire to control the weather, to prevent the hurricane from hitting the mainland. A desire that, unfortunately, could not be orchestrated in real life.
The phenomenon was first developed following the presidential election in 2016, the results of which disappointed many. The outcome, however, could not be changed. This dissatisfaction prompted people to coordinate fake events as a means to vent their frustration. Most notably, some people wanted to stand outside Trump Tower and just shout “no.” Others wanted to eat tacos outside of Trump Tower. In both cases, the goal was to poke fun at a president that they had presumably not voted for.
While these pages are more often than not used to respond to specific events, they have evolved to a point beyond that. Weird Facebook can simply express general anger at the world, as we saw with the surge of “jumping off the ____ bridge” events, which were then tailored to specific geographic locations and groups. The movement can also represent a mental state beyond mere anger or frustration, that point where such desperation has been reached that everything is funny and nonsensical. This explains the “gather at ____ and yell SpongeBob quotes” type of events.
As bizarre as these events may seem, they have one significant advantage: The pages provide people with a relatively safe environment to put forward their concerns, and find support in other like-minded humorous individuals who have similar issues. The events are quite harmless, yet act as outlets for all those who might need it. And the ones that do play out in real life are typically hilarious. Videos have emerged of people actually meeting at designated gathering locations and yelling SpongeBob quotes at each other.
Though few disadvantages have made themselves apparent, it is fairly easy to see how such events could go wrong. Some of the more extreme versions of the joke do call for people to engage in questionable, dangerous behaviour – jumping off a bridge, for instance, is not a safe activity. Furthering this idea, the groupthink created by such a large gathering of people in one same place good encourage some to make poor decisions, even if that was not their original intention. On the flip side, the lack of expectation developed by these events could then create a commitment issue: If people are not actually obligated to attend anything, what is to say they will? Could it then be that this behaviour would extend to the real world, and that people would neglect responsibilities? Weird Facebook does not entail obligation, and presumably inviters and invitees do not expect actual turnout. This lack of expectation could then feasibly be extended to the real world, where people forget the meaning of commitment: Simply clicking “going” no longer means anything. This however, has seemingly not yet become a true issue, and it is hard to see this type of situation actually playing out in real life.
Weird Facebook thus serves an important purpose. It allows people to vent frustration in a seemingly safe and controlled environment, entailing few consequences. But beyond allowing people to express their feelings at something beyond their control, it is also hugely entertaining. Let’s hope Weird Facebook is here to stay.