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Viral challenge “Florida man”, what it consists of and what relationship it has with people’s birthdays

When typing “Florida man” (man in Florida) and any date in the search engine, you will see that news headlines appear with that phrase. This is part of a viral challenge that emerged in 2013 and continues to this day: network users search for the words mentioned, any date, such as their birthdays, and then share screenshots with news related to that theme.

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This challenge, which became especially popular in the United States, began to circulate around the world in recent years and every now and then returns to its popularity peaks. The stories that are shared attract attention for several reasons: first, that there are so many headlines that start with the same phrase; and secondly, that they are often reports of unusual events.

Some of the stories that have gone viral over the years with the aforementioned headline:

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June 11, 2012: Florida man arrested for calling 911 after his kitten was denied entry to a strip club.

June 8, 2017: A Florida man desperate to go to Hooters calls 911.

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April 27, 2018: A Florida man “practises karate” with swans in the park.

January 4, 2019: A Florida man punches his dad in the face with a pizza after learning he helped deliver his baby.

June 11, 2020 – A Florida man battles an alligator that attacked his dog.

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July 20, 2020 – A Florida man tries to evade arrest by walking away from police.

What is the reason why there are so many atypical reports in that region? Different theories come into play here. The first says that it is not that more strange episodes necessarily occur in that state, but that there is more information available about them.

It so happens that Florida’s public records laws, also known as Sunshine Lawsmake it easier for journalists to obtain police incident reports and generate stories that grab readers’ attention.

The aforementioned laws allow journalists to easily submit a public record request and thus obtain information on different police incidents that are material for their articles.

Another theory highlights the fact that Florida is a large state, with a large number of inhabitants, which makes incidents more likely due to quantity. Added to this is that having a humid and hot climate, people spend more time outside their homes and therefore there are more chances that different events occur in public areas, or contexts in which they are easily exposed.

There is also the factor of mental health. That’s what Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, in St. Petersburg, Florida, alludes to in an article published in 2019 by CNN.

Florida has low funding dedicated to mental health. “It would be a mistake to think that Florida has a crazy crime rate; our violent crime rate is actually going down,” she said. And he added: “What is very high, however, is the mental health epidemic.”

He also pointed out that beyond the laughter that these headlines can generate, it is important to analyze if there is a bigger problem to attend to. In some cases, the incidents may be carried out by people who need help to deal with an adverse mental health situation, the expert in said article stressed.

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