Did John Key kill planking meme?

MAXIMUM PLANK: John Key with his son, Max, planking, in May.
MAXIMUM PLANK: John Key with his son, Max, planking, in May.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key might have taken planking mega, or might have killed it, depending on who you believe.

A Facebook study says planking status updates exploded after John Key appeared in a photo with his son, Max, planking. But others say the photo precipitated the craze's decline.

The 800-million-strong social network has released a study called "Memology 2011", charting its most popular topics and trends, nicknamed "memes", for the year.

Among the figures showing Osama Bin Laden's death was the most posted-about event, and Megan Fox was the top celebrity, was data about the planking fad.

Status updates about planking - where people lie face-down in unusual positions - exploded in May, Facebook said.

"That happened after Max Key, the son of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, posted a Facebook photo of himself planking in the family lounge with his father in the background," it said.

However the explosion quickly turned to bust, Facebook said.

"The fad quickly lost steam, then rebounded in July when celebrities such as Tom Green, Chris Brown and Katy Perry drew more attention to it.  But even they couldn't stem planking's eventual decline."

After the Key photo - and his subsequent endorsement of planking as OK - emerged, commenters on the photo bemoaned the fad's likely end.

"Stop trying to be cool, please," they wrote. "It's over."

The planking fad was just one of many Facebook charted during the year.

It also documented the rise of the terms "lms," short for "like my status" and "tbh" meaning "to be honest".

The year's biggest sports event came in February, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV.

Not surprisingly, Packers fans were particularly active around each post-season match (represented by the spikes on the chart above), culminating in their victory on February 6.

Charlie Sheen captured people's attention in March, when his trademark "winning," "tiger blood" and "goddesses" memes took off.

Later that month, the United Nations military operations started in Libya, prompting a surge in status updates mentioning "Libya" and "Gaddafi."

The marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William dominated the conversation in April, with mentions of the phrase "Royal Wedding" shooting up nearly 600-fold in the days running up to their wedding day.

Days later, the death of Osama bin Laden became the most talked about event on Facebook for 2011. On May 1, almost 10 percent of all status updates in English mentioned news of his death.

A couple months later, talk of the trial of Casey Anthony, a Florida woman who was accused of murdering her daughter Caylee Anthony, reached fever pitch. Status updates mentioning Caylee Anthony peaked on July 5, the day her mother was acquitted.

In August, Hurricane Irene struck the east coast of the United States, with people taking to Facebook to get the latest emergency warnings and to make sure their friends and family were safe.

The year was also marked by outpourings of sadness and memories after the deaths of Amy Winehouse in July and Steve Jobs in October.

 Finally, the launch of the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (mw3) was the big event of November, marking the biggest entertainment launch of all time.

Facebook also tracked trends in several different countries. While New Zealand was not included, Australia's list showed "planking" and number one, followed by Cyclone Yasi.

Global Trends

1.      Death of Osama Bin Laden

2.      Packers win the Super Bowl

3.      Casey Anthony found not guilty

4.      Charlie Sheen

5.      Death of Steve Jobs

6.      The Royal Wedding

7.      Death of Amy Winehouse

8.      Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

9.      Military operations begin in Libya

10.    Hurricane Irene


1.      Planking

2.      Cyclone Yasi

3.      Census

4.      Osama Bin Laden

5.      Skrillex

6.      Victorian floods

7.      Daniel Morcombe

8.      Charlie Sheen

9.      Death of Amy Winehouse

10.    Cadel Evans