When I was in my first year of university, my mom bought me Tide Pods to make doing my laundry easier. I remember thinking that because the Pods were so small, there must be a lot of chemicals loaded into them if they were still supposed to clean an entire load of laundry. That’s why when I heard about the most recent social media challenge, I knew that this one was going to have bigger implications than others.
These recent, viral social media challenges have ranged from the funny, like the Harlem Shake, the philanthropic, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, to the outright strange (and potentially offensive), like Planking. The Tide Pod Challenge is different: this one is actually endangering lives. By now we’ve all heard about this strange new social media challenge and have probably wondered how it all started.
The answer is unclear. Some say it may have originated from a meme of Oprah with the line: “Me eating tide laundry detergent pods.” Other sources speculate that it may have gotten its start from a piece by the satirical news outlet, The Onion, in 2015. While the exact origins remain unclear, there’s no doubt that the challenge is dangerous. Tide itself was even prompted to release a statement warning of the risks of ingesting the Pods. Doing so can cause gastrointestinal distress like diarrhea and vomiting, but can also wreak havoc on your lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing or even death.The Tide Pod Challenge is different: this one is actually endangering lives. Click To Tweet
The world hasn’t hesitated to make fun of this challenge. There are countless memes depicting various situations involving Tide Pods, like food brands including them in their products. The Onion came out with another piece advertising a new Sour Apple flavor of the Pods. The challenge has even prompted bakeries and restaurants to introduce Tide Pod inspired foods, this time safe, edible food made to look like Tide Pods.
All of these memes and spin-offs of the Tide Pod challenge are funny. The challenge is such an easy target at which to poke fun. After all, it’s so ridiculous that it’s even hard to imagine that it’s a real thing that real people are doing. The commentaries serve to highlight how silly it all is, operating under the assumption that everyone knows that you should refrain from eating laundry detergent.
But making fun of the issue simultaneously downplays its seriousness. People, the majority teenagers, are putting themselves not just in immediate danger but at risk for longer-term consequences. Tide Pods often contain bleach, the damage of which on the airways and digestive tract can continue for years. Trivializing the challenge might cause us to forget what we should really be focusing on: preventing more young people from endangering their lives.
The Tide Pod challenge points to the greater implications of the power of social media. The idea that from one meme or one article emerged a viral and dangerous trend is one that we shouldn’t take lightly. This generation of young people are the first to really grow up and be socialized in the world of social media. Adults may not be aware of just how much their children participate in that world, and may not appreciate how persuasive it is. I think the Tide Pod challenge in particular highlights a serious need to better understand that power and equip young people with the tools to weigh the potential of their actions to go viral, and potential of their actions to cause themselves serious harm.Adults may not appreciate how persuasive the world of social media is. Click To Tweet
Hopefully, the Tide Pod challenge is seeing its last days and is the only one of its kind. Remember, there are so many delicious, non-toxic foods out there in the world that will not burn your digestive tract. And there are definitely safer ways to get views on Youtube.
In the event of ingesting a Tide Pod, the U.S. national poison hotline is 1-800-222-1222.