Not a day goes by, it seems, that there is not another news story circulating nation-wide about a “Florida Man” or “Florida Woman” getting themselves into trouble in some new, twisted, or ridiculous way. If Florida really the hotbed of insane crimes? Are the people who live here from another dimension? Why the concentration of strange news stories from this one state? The answer is somewhat complicated but makes sense when one takes the time to really think about it.
Several factors play into the Florida Man Phenomenon, which all contribute to its rise to prominence in the national – and some would argue even international – news cycles. First, it’s often easy to forget that Florida is largely a state full of transplants. Only a relatively small percentage of people in any given area (especially in large, metropolitan centers) are from Florida – most transplanted to the state to retire, for school, or decided they liked the weather, at least until Hurricane season rolled around or they got their first taste of a real Florida summer. The often-transient nature of the state certainly contributes to the high incidents of strange occurrences that are often reported locally and then disseminated across news outlets nation-wide. The transplant nature of Florida’s population is then combined with the fact that the state is hugely populous, boasting over 21 million residents state-wide. That many people combined with so many visitors drawn to the climate and its many attractions is a sure-fire recipe for interesting stories cropping up largely throughout the state.
Secondly, the public records laws in Florida are surprisingly open compared to other states. These laws, otherwise known as “sunshine laws” make it much easier for news outlets to get access to incident reports in order to create news stories that will practically write themselves. By having some of the broadest laws in the nation for public records, information is available practically instantly, and news professionals who know how and where to search these records have easy access to attention-grabbing stories almost without effort.
Surprisingly, the weather in Florida may play a pivotal role in the amount of news stories that seem to be regularly churning off of the presses. The fact that the sunshine state boasts vacation weather almost year-round means that more people are leaving their homes and regularly going out in public, prompting interactions with others which increases the opportunity for strange interactions exponentially.
Lastly (and far more tragically), the Florida Man Phenomenon can easily be attributed to Florida’s mental health policies, which – to put it mildly – leave much to be desired. Florida has a huge mental health epidemic which is only heightened by the fact that funding for mental health issues is one of the lowest in the country. The lack of resources for those suffering from mental health issues definitely contribute to the problem at hand, and given the fact that the rate of violent crime throughout the state is actually decreasing, the rise of mental health-related issues seems to be systemic of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed prior to expecting the Florida Man Phenomenon to decrease with any significance.