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Planking: A Facebook fad to die for?

Facebook.com/Planking

It's all fun and games until some Australian guy falls to his death from a 7th-floor balcony while having his picture taken.

Facebook.com/Planking

Following the "really tragic" demise of of Acton Beale, 20, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard attempted to call an end to the latest Facebook craze Down Under, "planking" — the apparently super-fun practice of having one's photo snapped while lying board-stiff in an awkward location, for the purpose of uploading that photo on Facebook.

"There's a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that's really safe and taking a risk with your life,'' Gillard told reporters on Sunday.

"Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.''

Yeah, good luck with that, sister.

Facebook.com/Planking

One day after the prime minister's plea to stop the madness, Australia's most popular Planking "community page"  rose from approximately 116,000 "Likes" to more than 151,000.

As expected, a number of those "Likes" come from trolls joining up just to mock Beale's death, as is Internet de rigueur.

Others echo Alison Schrader's recent post on the page: "Bahahahahaha. I had never heard of planking til it was on the news. I thinks its (sic) gold. Some pics r just too funny."

Indeed, hundreds of photos and videos on the Planking page are hilarious in their awkward incongruity — like a flash mob on pause. 

This whole thing started in 2006 when U.K. buds Gary Clarkson and Christian Langdon launched "The Lying Down Game," dubbed as "the most bizarre internet meme” by blogs and local news media, recounts Know Your Meme:

Aims & Rules of Lying Down Game

  • More Public the Better.
  • Larger the Group, the Better.
  • No location is out of bound when playing the game.
  • Palm of hands held against the sides, toes touching the ground.
  • A disregard for personal safety is to be held in higher esteem.

"In July 2009, SKY News Anchor Martin Stanford attempted the Lying Down Game," helping keep the meme alive. And in 2011, the Planking page hit Facebook.

Here we see Australia's youth lying board stiff, arms at their sides, in the middle of busy sidewalks, balanced atop mail boxes, across the arms of chairs, on bike seats and backs of couches.

Facebook.com/Planking

Roofs of parked cars and over doorways seem to be prime planking locations. Pictures of sacked-out babies and dogs, or lawn gnomes balanced on beer cans offer a silly change of pace.

Alas, there are also dozens of photos to make a prime minister or U.S. parent cringe — because you know "planking" is as good as American now that it's "viral." It's this "extreme" planking that's destined to send at least one or two young Yanks to the Darwin Awards — planking across chimneys, basketball hoops, escalator handrails, etc. 

Mom, Dad — the NSFW nude group-planking pic is the least of your worries.

"Queensland state police deputy commissioner Ross Barnett told reporters that Beale fell from a balcony railing while a friend photographed him on Sunday morning in Brisbane," the U.K. Guardian reports. "The railing is believed to have been two inches wide.

Facebook.com/Planking

"Beale's death comes less than a week after another Australian man was charged with being found on a police establishment without lawful excuse, after he allegedly allegedly indulged his passion for the craze by planking over a police car."

Still, Australian cops say they're cool with planking, as long as you're not stupid about it. 

"If you want to take a photograph of yourself planking on a park bench two feet off the ground, there are no risks to your health with that," police deputy commissioner Ross Barnett said.

"But ... when you start doing it seven stories up or lying across a railway line or in a range of other places that invite death or serious injury, that's what we have a concern about.

Planking/Facebook

Ultimately, is it worth life in a wheelchair to take a funny photo to impress somebody you don't know on the Internet?" In an statement to the Australian press, Planking page founder Sam Weckert concurred: "Planking was started as a fun and quirky pastime," Weckert said. 

"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 sensationalise this tragic event."

More on the annoying way we live now:

 Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook.