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‘Game of 72’: Let’s apply a little ‘social norming’

This is a perfect example of why we need to apply what we know about social norming to social media panics. And in a rare show of levelheadedness from the news media, Global News in Canada helps us get there.

“The Game of 72 – a viral prank urging kids to disappear for 72 hours – is the latest in a series of risky pranks being done by kids and then shared to social media. But the prank, and others like it, may not be as common as many people think,” GlobalNews.ca reports. It certainly acknowledges how scary this prank can be to parents dealing with it, especially those in the UK and France who’ had to – and this is why parents worldwide need to know about it. But not panic, for two reasons:

  1. The acting on it by kids probably isn’t as viral as irresponsible news media outlets would suggest.
  2. The powerful social-norming part of the equation: When we refuse to join in the fear-and-panic mongering, stay levelheaded and spread the facts as best we can, and work to change the perception from “everybody’s doing it” to “most kids aren’t doing this” or “most kids know this is a stupid, hurtful prank,” behavior changes.

“Confirmed instances of the game being played are rare,” GlobalNews.ca continues. “It seems to have started in Europe with the disappearance of some teens in England and France and is believed to have made its way across the Atlantic,” but the piece links only to news over in Europe. Read it, though, because it links to other stupid, hurtful, short-lived “games” that went viral online. I wrote about the Neknomination one here, showing how good can go viral too, because neknomination led to raknomination, the spreading of random acts of kindness. There’s usually a flipside to online problems, but our brains get stuck on the negative side of things, as social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood at University of California, Davis, explained in a recent TEDx Talk.

I’d love to hear of examples of that in Comments below! You can read more about what we’ve learned from the social norms research here.

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