Which Internet Phenomenon Will Kill Next?

If you want to know what the lonely kids are doing in any given year, watch the local news and listen to how anchors contextualize youth crime:

The mother said that after hearing about the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls allegedly stabbing their friend to please Slender Man, she thinks her daughter was under the same influence.

“We found things that she had written and she made reference to Slender Man. She also made references to killing,” the mother said. “She even created a world for Slender Man in the game mine craft.”

This alleged daughter-mother knife attack is the second act of violence to be linked to Slender Man in a week. (The first was a stabbing carried out by two young teenage girls who were reportedly fans of the character.) It will certainly not be the last: The seed has been planted. Slender Man is the new heavy metal! Which makes Minecraft, the most open of open world games, the new… Dungeons and Dragons? One is a thing that offers itself to receive your projections of angst and anger. The other is place where a child can construct an imaginary world. For socializing, sometimes, but especially for solitude.

More broadly: It has been, and will be, fascinating to watch otherwise uninterested parties snatch, decontextualize and intensify various parts of the internet for explanatory purposes. Slender Man was the result of a self-conscious effort to create an internet horror mythology — he is a faceless, unspeaking exercise in pastiche. If you’re a young person searching for a macabre thrill, reading these stories is a quick way to get your fix. I imagine stumbling into this phenomenon as a teen, on your phone, or on your laptop, in private, is a lot like putting on your headphones and listening to Antichrist Superstar for the first time in 1996. Not forbidden, exactly, because your parents have no idea what it is. But scary and transcendent and very much yours.

So this is what will happen to internet phenomena, and communities, and subcultures, which may be becoming, more than even music, the dominant cultural currency of THE  TEENS: They will be spotlit, one by one, as their fans do the horrible things that troubled young people have done since the beginning of time.