October. Costumes are purchased, decorations are hung up, fall-scented candles are lit. Starbucks becomes a staple item as more and more customers pull up to the drive-thru and ask, “Hi, can I get a venti pumpkin spice latte, please?” 

But despite all of the wonderful perks the autumn season may bring, a recent epidemic spreading through social media has left people feeling slightly uneasy. Since late August, police reports have been piling up from people claiming to be terrorized by clowns. That’s right–the “clown apocalypse” may have just become a reality.

In Greenville, South Carolina, a woman spoke to police officials complaining of clowns who tried luring her son into the woods next to their apartment complex. No injuries were reported and no arrests were made.

But ever since the Greenville clown incident, sightings have been reported in states like Florida, Texas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Although law enforcement has taken the issue seriously as a safety precaution, certain states have yet to consider any clown sightings as a credible threat. Even so, with the amount of arrests made regarding clown-related activities starting to increase, what started off as troublesome pranking has now started to progress into something more serious.

The number of areas affected continues to grow, leaving America to wonder–why is the nation so caught up in this trend?

The actual motive behind these clown appearances is unclear, but one of the most logical explanations is that this is simply a growing group of individuals who take joy in scaring other people and who seek popularity through social media. It’s easy to retweet, like and share posts as people fill up hashtags with #clowns and #clownsightings on Twitter, Instagram and other social media–making this the newest quick and easy way to gain followers online.

As a result, clown sightings have become more prominent and people have taken this online influence into real life–confronting those who are dressed as clowns whether they are walking down the street or in public parks.  For example, when rumors circulated that a clown was planning to terrorize people in the area, students at Penn State University gathered into a mob. Videos were posted of students running around the streets chanting and catching clowns on campus that were attempting to scare people. 

The escalating situation continues to draw the kind of attention that actual clowns would rather not have. With or without a definite motive, the “clown hysteria” has started to affect the jobs of professional entertainers. Fright Dome owner Jason Egan said that the clown sightings are even affecting the reputation of those performing inside the Circus Circus Fright Dome. 

Since so many people are dressing up as clowns, it has become harder to decipher whether or not people should laugh or run away. Even the iconic Ronald McDonald has been impacted by this trend, among other professional clowns who work as entertainers and are striving to keep their businesses running. These workers now have to prove themselves as legitimate in order to avoid negative reactions from those who take the latest trend at face value.

Even if people are only poking fun at clowns, this superficial attitude doesn’t justify the perpetuation of a trend which is damaging professionals’ livelihoods.

The truth of the matter is, clowns aren’t bad. The people pretending to be them and terrorizing others are the reason clowns are being put in a bad light; these attention-seekers are the ones to be worried about. Regardless of the reason for this occurrence, there are many more important things to focus on. People’s minds should shift back onto the things that are actually going to affect the well-being of the nation–not rowdy teenagers who scare people for their own amusement.

How do you feel about the clown trend?