Parents feel social media pressure as Elf on the Shelf trend is compared to visits from poltergeists.

According to an academic, participants in the “elf on the shelf” phenomenon feel compelled to engage in increasingly extravagant displays to impress their peers. Dr. Alice Vernon, from Aberystwyth University, compares this trend to the behavior of “victims” of poltergeists, who also feel the need to perform more impressive phenomena. Many parents, under social media pressure, come up with new poses and scenarios for their elves to gain recognition. While the elf on the shelf may seem harmless, when done solely for social media attention, it can induce anxiety and attention-seeking behavior. It becomes less about the enjoyment of children and more about parents seeking greater levels of social media attention. The craze originated from a book in 2005, and parents now position their elves in silly or naughty scenarios each morning. This trend reminds Dr. Vernon of the case of Alma Fielding, a victim of poltergeist activity in the 1930s. Both the elf on the shelf and the poltergeist phenomenon serve as outlets for mischief without taking responsibility, but increasingly they become performative for the admiration of others.

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