This hit the European news outlets when a French 13-year-old went missing for three days. When she finally showed up back home, safe and sound, she wouldn’t tell anyone where she’d been but said she’d disappeared on a Game of 72 dare. French parents are frantically posting warnings about it on social media, but authorities are baffled, because they can’t find anything about the game online. So, is it a hoax?
It might not be, given the robust history of social media’s power to get people to do all kinds of strange things, from fundraisers like the Ice Bucket Challenge to the game Neknomination, which had people posting videos of themselves chugging alcohol and then nominating others to do the same. Last year, French people used Facebook to challenge one another to throw themselves into bodies of water or face the “fine” of having to buy a meal for the person who nominated them. A teenager playing the game drowned when he tied a bicycle to his leg before riding into a river.
The headlines are pretty sensational—and seem more calculated to get scared parents clicking than to really inform. “Weird Facebook Game Sends Kids Missing for 72 Hours” is a catchy headline, but so far it’s been…just the one kid, and she hasn’t delivered any evidence to back up her claim that there’s a game afoot. The only trace of it on the Web so far is parents posting warnings about it, but no actual evidence of the game itself.
In the meantime, the investigation continues and the parents panic. If I were a writer for Law & Order: SVU, I’d be flexing my typing fingers and watching the news like a hawk.