The Momo – Rolling Stone
No, it’s not a fundraiser to bring awareness to the dangers of promiscuous kissing, that would be mono. This is Momo, something a little more sinister and it has recently gained some internatinal notoriety across the internet.
But is it real? Eh, not really.
But before we say why, let’s take a look at the origins of this new web-lore legend and whether or not people should be concerned.
It appears that the Momo was first reported in Mexico. Authorities there saying the impetus stemmed from a Facebook group in that country.
But as is usually the case, the U.S. fanned the hype when YouTube influencer ReignBot dedicated one of her videos to the sinister plot which starts with accepting calls from a self-identified “Momo” (the bird-like woman in the picture) on WhatsApp.
From there, the person gets increasingly more terrifying challenges from the texter. They start by suggesting their mark do something as trivial as watching a horror movie late at night, then culminate into more damaging acts like self-harm.
The internet has seen a similar challenge in The Blue Whale, an almost identical viral pyramid scheme that also cyberbullie kids into doing harmful things to themselves.
The Blue Whale chain was indicated in some suicides, but nothing could ever be confirmed.
Experts say the Momo hoax follows many of the same criteria that traditional urban legends do.
“There’s no real truth to [games like the Momo Challenge] or evidence that it’s a real threat,” Benjamin Radford, a folklorist and researcher for the Committee for Skeptic Inquiry, told Rolling Stone.
He adds that challenges like The Momo are a “part of a moral panic, fueled by parents’ fears in wanting to know what their kids are up to…You have adults, who may be baby boomers — maybe they don’t text, maybe they’re not comfortable with technology. They’re wondering, ‘My daughter is always on my phone, who’s she talking to? What’s going on there?’ There’s an inherent fear in what young people are doing with technology.”
Some warn that even though the e-lore itself is not something worth focusing on, there might be more harm in predators replicating the craze to lure teenage victims into a trap.
But even then, parental experts say kids are a bit smarter than their parents give them credit for. But discussions about safety should definitely be had.
“We need to remind parents that things are happening that are sort of the new media analogues of strangers giving out candy on the side of the road,” said Dr. April Foreman, licensed psychologist, executive board member of the American Association of Suicidology.
She says parents should tell kids, “‘You may see some weird stuff, if you do turn it off. Just let me know.’”
So that seems to be the real threat, busy parents not deep-diving into their kid’s phone or iPad habits. Only skimming the surface of their activity or not knowing enough about workarounds.
That’s what sneaky kids are counting on. Predators too.
As for that “bird-faced” lady who has become the mascot for the Momo hoax, she is the product of sculptor Keisuke Aisawa at Link Factory, a Japanese horror film prop and special effects company.
Although the Momo Challenge is as legitimate as a call from “Scam Likely,” there are still evil trolls out there who will manipulate anyone they can, which is dangerous if their target is already emotionally vulnerable.
We suggest anyone falling into either of those categories seek help, the latter can dial the t(r)oll free number below.
Anyone experiencing a crisis is encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.