By Brett Gillin
The internet can be a cruel, disgusting place. For evidence, simply scroll down to the comments section on just about any popular YouTube video or news article and read about a dozen comments. It’s nearly a 100% certainty that at least one of those comments is something vile, racist, hateful, or at the very least ignorant. But, as you’ll see in this story, sometimes the internet can be a different, even beautiful place.
Witness the story of #DancingMan. Earlier this month, two pictures of a man were posted on the popular bulletin-board-style website 4chan with a simple caption: “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.”
The first picture seemed to show the man happily dancing. In the second picture, the man is staring down at the floor with a dejected look on his face. Most of the comments below that post took turns mocking the man, calling him horrible names, and generally being the kind of cruel that only the internet can seem to cultivate these day.
But one Twitter user, Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules), decided she was going to turn the tide. After she found the picture and became disgusted by the cruelty that was being leveled toward the man, she tweeted it out to her followers, asking “Anyone know this man or who posted this? There’s a huge group of ladies in LA who would like to do something special.”
Meanwhile, she and hundreds (if not thousands) of like-minded men and women began putting plans in place to throw an epic dance party in the man’s honor, hoping that he would be found and be the guest of honor. Hollywood quickly picked up on the good vibes, with music superstars Moby, Pharrel, Andrew W.K. and Pitbull offering to help throw the party and even perform, according to this article on People. The promise of 1,727 women getting together to dance and celebrate the man was becoming a phenomenon.
Within hours of hitting social media, the picture and request had been retweeted thousands of times, and a few days later, the man was identified as a London resident named Sean. Sean, who would prefer to not use his whole name, was extremely grateful for the support and agreed to come to the party, which should go down before the summer.
When the campaign to find #DancingMan was just beginning, a GoFundMe page went up, looking to raise enough money to pay for the party and get Sean to Los Angeles from London. However, with the huge outpouring of support from Hollywood players, venues, promoters, and other activists, it was quickly decided that the $40,000 they raised in the first 12 days would not be needed for the party.
Instead, Sean and Cassandra have identified several charities in the U.S. and U.K. to donate the money to. The first charity they chose is the Megan Meier Foundation, which promotes awareness, education, and positive change in response to bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide.
And the movement has taken on a life of its own from there, with #Dancingman becoming synonymous with the anti-bullying movement. Twitter began exploding with 10 second videos with hashtag #dancefree, showing their support for Sean, the #DancingMan movement, and the anti-bullying movement.
“He’s really cool,” Cassandra told People when asked about working with Sean. “I’m glad he’s the person we found. He’s a really good, genuine, nice guy and he’s very concerned about raising money for charity and raising awareness. He’s not making it about him, it’s about the bigger issues.”