Dangerous Internet trends sweep social media


The relevance of Internet memes has largely expanded over the past decade, along with the growing popularity of social media among children, teens, and young adults. Because of the vast connection among millions of varying devices, trends catch on quickly in social media communities. Most notably, the first viral phenomenon that unfortunately spiraled out of control this year was a running joke about Tide Pods.

To explain the Tide Pods meme, it essentially plays on an indescribable, yet oddly common, urge to consume laundry detergent pods because of their colorful, gummy appearance, somewhat similar to that of Fruit Gushers. What started as harmless sarcasm in mid-December 2017, morphed into a lethal comedy routine with poison control help-lines receiving an alarming amount of calls regarding sickness from detergent consumption. According to CNN, poison control centers received 39 such calls in the month of January, which was the exact number of calls they received for this issue in the entire year of 2016.

This is just one example of a meme taking a turn for the worse. In 2013, the salt and ice challenge took the Internet by storm–people would apply table salt and ice to their skin, and try to withstand the pain for as long as possible. This combination can inflict second to third-degree burns due to frostbite. Two years later, in 2015, the Kylie Jenner lip challenge took over. This time, participants put a small glass around their lips and sucked in air, creating suction that causes the lips to swell significantly. The repercussions of this action entailed bruised, painful lips, and, in more extreme cases, broken glasses and stitches.

The unfortunate part of the Tide Pods meme was that at one point, it really was nothing more than a joke about the irrational urge to bite into a packet of laundry detergent. Most people in their right minds had no intention of trying it, or even allowing it to get to a point of toxicity or fatality. On the contrary, the salt and ice challenge and the Kylie Jenner Lip challenge lacked any satirical intent to begin with– they caught on at their prime but were quickly dismissed as the risks came to light. As the Tide Pods meme became more popular, people actually started to attempt consumption, and it was all downhill from there. Now, unfortunately, it seems that the people feeding into this content have had a tougher time letting go of the Tide Pods trend, let alone taking it seriously.

There exists no real explanation for why anyone would think that swallowing a packet of soap for the sake of fame is a good idea. Within the past few years, society has seemed to favor popularity and online success over their own well-being. When trends like this circulate, people tend to test exactly how far they can reach, and just how much they can risk, to obtain the highest amount of shock value.

It is disappointing that this has to be said at all, but people should use some common sense and not attempt an obviously dangerous challenge for attention. It would be considerably more fulfilling to become famous for doing something with a positive impact on the world, as opposed to receiving fifteen minutes of fame in the form of ridicule for having poor enough judgment to ingest laundry detergent. However, to those who decide to do it anyway, they should hope that the footage rakes in enough ad revenue to cover their hospital bills.