Momo Challenge Is Everything That’s Wrong with the Internet

Momo Challenge Is Everything That’s Wrong with the Internet The other night, my wife flipped her iPad screen toward me, flashing me an image of Momo. With its deep-set, marble eyes, black matted hair, rictus grin, and hybrid female/bird body, Momo is a deeply unsettling image. I instinctively turned my head and asked why she’d shown […]

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Momo Challenge Is Everything That’s Wrong with the Internet

The other night, my wife flipp her iPad screen toward me, flashing me an image of Momo. With its deep-set, marble eyes, black matt hair, rictus grin, and hybrid female/bird body, Momo is a deeply unsettling image. I instinctively turn my head and ask why she’d n me that nightmare right before b.

Of course, why should I be spar? The image of Momo has appear on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, newspapers, online mia, and local and national TV. It haunts every corner of mia and social mia and, according to reports, may be inspiring impressionable young minds to ry out horrifying acts of self-destruction.

Except that’s not what’s really happening here.

Momo is in reality “Mother Bird,” a bizarre Japanese sculpture of indeterminate origin. “Momo” refers to another part of the Momo Challenge origin story. The image originally start appearing on the wildly popular Chinese Momo flirting app where it was shar widely as an example of something they call “Kimo Kawa” or “disgusting but cute.”

However, the Momo mythology didn’t take off, according to Know Your Meme, until 2017 when the image became associat with a WhatsApp number. Why you’d want to call that face I will never know. Even so, the number was quickly debunk as meaningless and yet that Momo/WhatsApp connection persist as a crucial element of the Momo Mythology.

Momo transform from a persistent and disturbing meme into something more serious when the Buenos Aires Times report that a 12-year-old girl might have committ suicide bas on a command given to her through WhatsApp, and that the act was potentially part of what was then known as the “Momo Game.” In this “game,” a person (or maybe Momo) directs a victim to perform a series of challenges that can ultimately lead to self-harm or suicide.

The Buenos Aires Times’ reporting wasn’t exactly solid. It repeatly claim that the Mother Bird Sculpture was the work of Japanese artist Midori Hayashi whose Instagram page bio now starts with, “I didn’t create “Mother Bird”. Keisuke Aiso creat it. Link Factory is his company.” Aiso, as far as I can tell, has never spoken publicly about the sculpture, though he has author a book fill with disturbing female-like sculptures callGrotesque Girls.”

The newspaper never follow up on the story and there’s never been any confirmation that the “Momo Game” had anything to do with the girl’s tragic .

There were some scatter reports after that of people inserting images of Momo into Minecraft or, as the New York Post lik to say, Momo had taken over Minecraft. Yet, even with that story, there was no video or photographic evidence.

Momo fad from public ciousness for six months until fresh claims emerg of the Momo image popping up in children’s YouTube videos, a claim YouTube quickly denied. Momo’s bizarre, bird-like image was everywhere again, as was the unfortunate tale of the 12-year-old who committ suicide, which is often us as the lode stone that somehow verifies all other claims.

In a Today Show report, which acknowlge the possibility that the “Momo Challenge” might be a hoax, they earnestly ask the question, “Who’s behind it?” I want to shout at the screen: We are!

Like any high-quality meme, “Momo” (and the “Momo Challenge”) has firmly embd itself into the central neous system of the Internet. It’s like a latent gene, not always noticeable, but ready to present itself at any moment.

It can be hard to understand how this kind of virality works unless you experience a little bit of it yourself. A few years back, I work on a story about a company that could take any photo and turn it into toast or more specifically, a toaster that could create “Selfie Toast.” I work with them to get my own selfie-mng toaster and soon I had an entertaining story and at least one good photo of my toaster with the original image of my face print on it and a piece of toast with my burnt-on visage popping out of it. I like to call this image Toaster Face.

The story was popular enough that the image got pick up on Tumblr. Then it got pass around, sans context, all over the place. My daughter, then a frequent Tumblr user, would groan every time it reemerg in her fe, which was about every six months. Eventually the image made its way to the Bill Maher Show, where the comian made fun of it, but clearly had no idea about its origin, As for me, I no longer had control of the image or story and had to sit back and watch as people made up ideas about what it represent.

Obviously, the sentiment behind Momo and the Momo Challenge is much darker, but the cycle of virality is similar.

Momo thrives on a grotesque image, one potentially apocryphal story, and the Internet’s willingness to insta-share any notion without a moment’s hesitation or investigation.

Everyone believes the Momo Challenge is a threat to our children because everyone tells them so. Even worse, the mia reinforces this notion by reporting and re-reporting the same story every six months. There is no evidence that the Momo Challenge exists. There’s not even any evidence that the image is popping up like an insane interstitial in children’s YouTube videos.

Momo is, instead, a perfect reflection of everything that’s wrong with Internet culture, social mia, -jerk reporting and a reminder of how we got ourselves into this mess.

It’s a confirmation tale that reinforces the idea that the Internet is teeming with prators looking to harm our children. It’s also a tool for those who fe on those fears. Just as Russian Trolls us our social mia reinforce existing biases and swing an election with fake groups and with plant stories, there are people grabbing the Momo image, which no one seems to own, and reproducing it in all kinds of mia, stirring up fears bas on a fearful image and nothing else. They do it because they can, and they know that it’s an easy way to get a response. I found it easy enough to grab a Momo image and, using Snapchat Face Swap lens, make a semblance of the gargoyle talking with my voice.

In the Today report, a woman holds her small child who, according to her, knew Momo was the character with sy eyes and black hair. But no one explain where the child had seen the image. On the other hand, by now we’ve all seen Momo; her mirthless grin is inescapable.

The mother’s concern was real but the threat to our children? It’s not.

We may never truly understand why the Momo meme persists, but the idea that a single entity might be behind the Momo Challenge is preposterous. If you want to understand where the Momo Challenge is coming from and how to stop it, go look in a mirror.

Momo Challenge Is Everything That’s Wrong with the Internet


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