Anyone who’s spent any time on the Internet knows all about Florida Man. It’s a continuing series of memes involving bizarre, colorful crime stories that begin with the phrase “Florida Man.”
For many years, the Florida Man phenomenon was chronicled by a Twitter account of that name, which launched in 2013, and shared Florida Man stories by describing the collective Florida Man as “the world’s worst superhero.” This continued for years, as more and more people caught onto the “Florida Man” theme, with the “Florida Man Challenge” going viral earlier this year, as Internet users were asked to Google the phrase “Florida Man” along with their birthday and then share the strangest result.
More recently, though, there’s been a bit of a backlash to the Florida Man idea. The podcast Citations Needed ran an episode last spring pointing out that the meme is somewhat mean-spirited, and also mocking of those who are often poor or mentally ill. And now, the creator of the Twitter account has retired it.
A Washington Post story published Monday, titled “Is It Okay to Laugh At Florida Man?”, interviews several of the people who were mentioned in viral Florida Man stories, including the notorious “Florida Man Wearing Crocs Gets Bitten After Jumping Into Crocodile Exhibit at Alligator Farm” from People magazine in 2018.
The story also speaks with the creator of the Twitter account, who identifies himself publicly for the first time as Freddie Campion, a former editor for GQ, who now works as a video producer in Los Angeles.
Campion tells The Post that he ran the account for many years, but eventually started to worry that what he had created had gotten mean-spirited.
“How much do I want to be a party to essentially making fun of people on the worst day of their lives, even if they have done something wrong?,” Campion began to ask himself.
At one point he took a break and later returned with the determination to do a better job. But eventually, this spring, he announced that the account was being retired.
The Post story makes clear that many of the Florida Man stories, while funny on a headline level, are about unspeakable tragedy. Another reason for the meme, the article says, is that Florida has a “sunshine law” which means that arrest records are released to the media much more quickly and more often than they are in some other jurisdictions.