Let’s start with a quick primer on the Florida Man meme. Back in 2013 the phrase “Florida man” was popularised. It consisted of various totally unrelated news articles that highlight how some guy in Florida made the news because he did something insanely stupid that resulted in him making the news.
Here are a few random examples …
- Florida man arrested for calling 911 after kitten denied entry into strip club
- Florida man trapped in unlocked closet for two days
- Florida man killed by alligator while hiding from cops
- Florida man desperate for ride to Hooters calls 911
- Florida man insists syringes pulled from rectum aren’t his
- Florida man in dog costume filmed himself having sex with Siberian husky
- Florida man protects car from Hurricane Dorian by parking it in kitchen
Where does all this come from?
The popularisation of “Florida Man” came about in 2013 because that is when the Twitter account @_FloridaMan popped up. The guy behind it all, Freddie Campion, eventually retired the account. An extract from a Washington Post article explains why the concept that he popularised is like this …
For Florida Man to evolve from the primordial swamp-gas of the Internet, the environmental conditions had to be just right. Florida is the third-most populous state, so it naturally has a lot of everything — good, bad and weird. The state’s sunshine laws, passed in 1967, make public records — mug shots, arrest reports, video evidence and 911 calls — available to anyone, with the ease of one-click shopping.
Then there’s the state’s strange geography: swampland infested with alligators and pythons, the most sinkholes in the nation. As for law and order, the state counts about 2 million concealed weapons permits, 1.4 million felons, and “stand your ground” laws.
Thanks to the temperate climate, there’s no offseason for criminals or pranksters or nudists. And, as local writers from Carl Hiaasen to Dave Barry to Lauren Groff have noted, the water table of weirdness is just naturally high in Florida.
Over the years the joke grew uncomfortable for Campion and he also began to realise that these were real people …
“ ‘How much do I want to be a party to essentially making fun of people on the worst day of their lives, even if they have done something wrong?’ Like, who gave the Internet the right to add to someone’s punishment?”
… so he stepped back from his account and retired it.
The meme however lives on. It predated him, he simply popularised what was already there.
The meme is now deeply embedded in our Culture
Over on Reddit somebody asked for the best Florida Man bible stories and of course the result is exactly as you might expect …
It works wonderfully well for several reasons. We all understand the “Florida Man” meme. The bible itself contains a collection of some truly bizarre and surreal stories that quite naturally blend seamlessly in with the “Florida Man” meme.
That specific reddit thread has literally thousands of examples.
There is also a serious point here
The truth of why the Florida man meme exists is perhaps not just rooted rooted in sunny weather and easy access to all of the 911 calls at the click of a button, but something far more serious. Mental health is a huge issue in Florida. The state ranks at the bottom of all states for mental health funding, according to the Florida Policy Institute.
We might indeed laugh at these bizarre stories that serve as media click-bait, but behind it is this far bigger issue. There is something to really ponder over here.
Who you vote for has consequences, so I’ll finish off with this.
Public policy decisions might sound dull and off topic, but as the author of the Twitter account @_FloridaMan account realised, we might laugh at first, but there comes a time to pause and ask ourselves, not just “Why is it like this?”, but also “What can we do about it?”.