How Planking Begat Owling: The History of an Internet Meme
If you spend hours a day on Reddit, Tumblr, or 4chan, you already know all about owling, the latest internet meme birthed out of the planking movement. For everyone else, here’s the rundown.
Before owling, there was planking, and before planking, there was the Lying Down Game. Originating in England, the main point of the game was to lie flat, face down, in unexpected places, then take a picture and post it to social media sites to make all of your friends laugh, with you or at you. The game quickly expanded to the rest of the world, and became known as planking in Australia.
On March 15, 2011, 20-year-old Acton Beale plummeted to his death after attempting to plank the railing of his seventh-story apartment in Brisbane, and the silly meme suddenly seemed a lot more serious. But it continued to skyrocket in popularity as news outlets featured the fad and celebrities like Katy Perry, Ellen Page, and the hallowed Justin Bieber shared their own planking poses. The Washington Post even ran an article discussing the possible racist elements of planking, tracing its roots back to the “planking” method used on ships to transport slaves to the United States. Eventually, as memes tend to do, planking faded into the distance as strange cousin memes immediately popped up, including the popular owling.
The first photo of owling appeared on Reddit in July and quickly grew from there. It showed a woman crouched on a staircase handrail with her arms by the side of her legs. Like an owl.
Want to try it for yourself?
Step 1: Crouch. Step 2: Hold arms near feet. Step 3: Look off into the distance. And you’re owling! Be sure to take a picture and post it online.