ORLANDO, Fla. — A new challenge making waves on social media pokes fun at Florida’s reputation for producing strange news stories involving guns, drugs, booze and reptiles — or some combination of the four.
The challenge invites participants to run their birthday and “Florida man” through a search engine to find out which headline pops up. Then they must post the result on social media.
The “Florida Man” concept crept into the nation’s consciousness with the @_FloridaMan Twitter account in 2013. The account, with the tagline “Real-life stories of the world’s worst superhero,” has been home to recent headlines such as “Florida Man Fire Bombs Garage That Impounded His Car, Hits His Own Vehicle” and “Florida Man Tried to Pay for McDonald’s With Weed.”
The less common, but no less noteworthy, “Florida Woman” subgenre has produced headlines such as “A Florida woman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault without intent to kill after she reportedly ‘farted loudly’ in a Dollar Store and then pulled a knife on a man who complained.”
“Once, it seemed as though all the weird people and stories came from California. But over the past decade, it shifted to Florida,” said Jim Clark, a lecturer in the University of Central Florida’s history department. “Now, when I see a bizarre story, I am surprised when it is not from Florida.”
A mixture of factors helps Florida birth these astounding tales.
For starters, it’s the nation’s third largest state, with more than 20 million residents, and a random sample of any population that large is guaranteed to produce its share of the outrageous. Florida is also blessed with a liberal public records law that allows these stories to surface into plain view with little resistance or concern about taste.
And then there’s the combination of subtropical temperatures, palm trees and endless blue skies that seems to inspire some people to shed all inhibitions. Under the right circumstances, couldn’t we be tempted to follow in the footsteps of “Naked Florida man revealed on video sneaking into restaurant and munching on ramen”?