What’s Happening With: Viral Online Challenges
January 24, 2020
The online world is constantly introducing new “challenges,” and some of them go viral—either because they look fun, support a good cause, or have a high level of difficulty. If a celebrit
The online world is constantly introducing new “challenges," and some of them go viral—either because they look fun, support a good cause, or have a high level of difficulty. If a celebrity starts one of these challenges, odds are that it will go viral. There were many viral challenges over the past few years, with 2018 being an especially eventful year, but what’s happening now? Has the viral challenge excitement finally started to calm down, or is the trend catching more steam?
It’s difficult to know exactly when these online challenges really started going viral, but most of you probably remember one of the first and most memorable ones in which you participated: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014. In just an eight-week span, $115 million was raised for ALS. The challenge involved filling a large bucket with ice/ice water and taking a video of yourself pouring it over your head, then nominating at least three friends to do the same. 2016 was the year of the fan-favorite challenge, the Mannequin Challenge, where people froze in place to imitate the emotionless human statues in shopping malls, all while shooting a video of it with music playing. Some of the videos were elaborate and jaw-dropping; some even included crowds of people.
2018 was a rather big year for viral challenges. Best known by the lyrics, “Keke, do you love me?" the Drake song “In My Feelings" caused the #InMyFeelingsChallenge to emerge. Participants were challenged to replicate the dance moves of the Instagram star Shiggy. It seemed harmless at first, but became dangerous quickly, as people would step out of moving cars and walk alongside them while performing the dance moves. Speaking of dangerous challenges, don’t forget the Tide Pod Challenge. This challenge, which started as a meme, prompted people to post videos of themselves “eating" Tide Pods. The whole thing was meant to be a big joke, and in most videos, people would chew on the pod viewers wouldn’t actually see it get swallowed. Then there was the dangerous #BirdBoxChallenge, which started in 2018 and continued into this year. It evolved from the Netflix film Bird Box, and prompted people to blindfold themselves while doing various tasks.
This year, we saw the harmless How Hard Did Aging Hit You Challenge, also known as the “ten-year challenge," where participants were urged to post two photos of themselves side-by-side, one from 2009 and one from 2019, to see how much older they really look. You might also remember the #CheesedChallenge, which involved throwing slices of cheese on the faces of babies and toddlers and laughing at their reactions. This challenge evoked amusement for some, but criticism from most. It might seem like 2019 hasn’t been a very active year for viral challenges, but don’t worry—they are still out there.
What’s happening now? Just last month, the world was introduced to the “Vacuum Challenge," which involves putting your whole body (up to your neck) in a trash bag, then using a vacuum hose to suck the air out of the bag. This usually leads to the person in the trash bag falling over and not being able to move, eliciting some humorous videos. However, according to the trauma program manager at a children’s hospital in Michigan, “If the bag ends up over the face, this quickly becomes potentially dangerous and can lead to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain," which can lead to death. This challenge is especially dangerous for those who attempt it by themselves, as they can get stuck in the bag with no one to rescue them. This should be on your list of good challenges to skip (and when your friend who has had a few drinks thinks it’s a good idea, try to talk them out of it.)
One of the first viral trends to hit this summer was “sunburn tattoos," where people put stickers of various shapes on their skin, and lay out in the sun unprotected until their skin burns. Once they take the stickers off, they can see the outlines of the stickers, which have been called sunburn tattoos. It doesn’t really need to be explained why this is dangerous. Deliberately letting your sun burn causes skin damage and increases your chances of getting skin cancer. If you find yourself intrigued by the sunburn tattoo photos, remind yourself of the risks, and opt for one of those temporary tattoos instead. You can now even purchase semi-permanent tattoos that last for one to two weeks from Inkbox.
Most recently came the “bottle cap challenge," which actually takes some skill in order to pull off. You take a plastic bottle and do a spinning kick that kicks the cap right off the bottle while leaving the bottle standing. The trick is to have someone hold the bottle so that it doesn’t go flying when you kick the cap, and keep the camera close so that the person’s hand is out of the shot. This one has become big because big-name celebrities are taking part in it, and even challenging other celebrities to try to one-up them. It has been tried by big names including John Mayer, Jason Statham, Mariah Carey, Whitney Cummings, and Kendall Jenner, to name a few. Feel free to try this one out; just make sure you have plenty of room and that you don’t kick anyone.
Lastly, it just has to be mentioned: the ice cream licking. #IceCreamChallenge is the new, craziest trend that just won’t seem to end. It all started when a young woman in Texas licked a carton of Blue Bell ice cream, then put the ice cream back on the shelf. She posted the video of her licking it online, which has then prompted others to do the same. It looked like the woman was going to be charged with a second-degree felony tampering and face up to 20 years in prison—but it was found that the woman was a juvenile, so her fate is now up to the juvenile justice system. For some odd, unknown reason, others are now following in her footsteps and licking ice cream then putting it back on the shelf. Copycats are being arrested for these acts, as they are being caught on store cameras. Not only is this trend disgusting, but it can spread disease. Next time you purchase ice cream, it may be best to go for a brand that has a plastic seal over the cover. That way you know it hasn’t been opened or tampered with.
If you thought the trend of viral online challenges were over, think again. It seemed like we’d seen it all; people walking around public areas blindfolded, people jumping out of moving vehicles dancing, people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads, and people freezing like mannequins. Now we see people licking unbought ice cream and getting stuck in trash bags. Now we ask, what else does 2019 have in store for us? What will be the next viral challenge? Odds are, whatever it is, you will hear about it.