Why Momo is Frightening

First off, this entire thing is a hoax. The internet is a weird place, in part because content attribution is, well, effectively nonexistent. Parents became incredibly fearful that Momo might cause their child to harm themselves. This fear short-circuits the rational parts of our brain, leading to a visceral panic that someone or something could harm our babies.

Viral Posts + Protect Children Instinct = Mass Delirium.

Actual Name - Mother Bird  Sculpture by a Japanese artist. In Japanese culture the anime and horror genres are popular.

Actual Name - Mother Bird
Sculpture by a Japanese artist. In Japanese culture the anime and horror genres are popular.

We would be a short-lived species if we did not care about the wellbeing of our children. Fortunately, most parents have a deep-rooted imperative to keep their children safe until they are capable of taking care of themselves. That imperative can be thrown into overdrive unnecessarily when exposed to a stimulus that preys on our deep fears.

Examining this Momo phenomenon rationally, the fear rapidly falls apart.

  • Momo content is spliced into videos commonly streamed by children

  • Momo encourages a young person to self-harm

  • Momo challenges the child to play the “suicide game”

  • Momo causes the child to hurt or kill themselves

Think back to your time as a child. Would you listen to a random person who came up to you and told you to “run a knife across your throat?” I’ll bet you would probably run away screaming, especially if that person looked anything like Momo.

Kids may be impressionable, but it is a long, long stretch to think a child of any age can be challenged to hurt themselves by a clip of an imaginary character edited into their favorite cartoon on YouTube. More likely, they’ll be confused. Even more likely, they’ll be so frightened they’ll go to the closest person that makes them feel safe.

Self-preservation is one of the strongest instincts a human being possesses. Even if a child was entranced by the scary figure, I’ll explain why that does not happen in a moment, and even if that child found a sharp pair of scissors, it is pretty much impossible that they will hurt themselves severely enough to end their life.

Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs -  https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/

One, because the initial pain will stop them from doing any more pain to themselves. Two, they lack the critical requirements to actually harm themselves according to the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior.

  1. Perception of burdening others and of social alienation combine to instill the desire for death;

  2. Individuals will not act on the desire for death unless they have developed the capability to do.

Translation - A person needs to want to die and develop the ability to kill themselves. Listening to a scary stranger’s instructions does not increase a person’s perception of their burden on others, or increase their ability to self-harm.

But why does looking at Momo convey such fear? Simple, we evolved to be intensely disturbed by features that indicate physical sickness and starvation. Serious illness usually causes a person to lose weight Their eyes sink into their skulls, their skill becomes pale, and their bones can be more easily seen.

We are “sickened” by these sickening features because they loudly advertise - DEATH LIKELY! DO NOT COME CLOSER!

To think a child, or any adult for that matter, would be wooed by such a sickly character as Momo is to ignore that the most frightening antagonists in our stories are the ones that look like corpses. I would be concerned if Elmo or Winne-the-Pooh told kids that it was fun to cut or jump off something really high. Momo, Voldemort, Emperor Palpatine? Not so much.

Here are other examples of how villains are made scarier with sickly features.