The Tide Pod Challenge: Once More Into The Abyss.

Tide Laundry Detergent Pods/ CC
Photograph: 'Tide Laundry Detergent Pods'/ Mike Mozart

Well, here we are again. I hope you’re pleased with yourself internet. Look at what you’re making people do this time. Eating Tide Pods? Really? Must we stare into the abyss once more? We should have expected such behaviour at this point. We should have seen in coming a mile off.

The long-term trends were there all along. First, we had the indignity of the ‘neck nomination‘, which originally started as an online drinking game, but in a nightmarish version of ‘mission creep’ it started to include dares and pranks that you would have to complete within 24 hours or face social ostracisation from your peers and eternal banishment from polite society. I made the last bit up. The only consequence of not completing your ‘neck nomination’ was that you still had a shred of dignity intact and you didn’t disappoint your parents.

Another foreshadowing event that didn’t bode well for our species was the 2014 phenomena of throwing a cup of boiling water into the air and watching it freeze almost instantaneously. These escapades were uploaded to YouTube and Facebook because if you don’t film yourself doing something nowadays; you didn’t do it. That was the theory anyway. In practice, hundreds of people ended up scalding themselves, either because the wind direction blew the blistering water back over their faces, they didn’t throw it far enough; or they severely misjudged the amount of water required. Someone even decided to use a large paint tin rather than a cup, which led to them being ferried to the nearest burns unit for emergency treatment and one would assume some minor skin grafts. Either way, according to the LA Times over fifty people were injured. I expect it was many, many, more.

In fact, this insightful tweet can explain the situation far more eloquently than I ever could:

To be fair, this sort of show-boating, imbecilic behaviour for a perceived audience of strangers predates ‘Internet 2.0’ by a good margin and probably owes a debt to its early millennial televisual forefathers of Jackass and Dirty Sanchez.

These ‘challenges’ have been sporadically appearing over the last few years at fairly regular intervals. Every-time, as a society, it looks like we have reached the nadir, another meme based social media phenomena will appear to remind us that we haven’t reached the bottom of the barrel quite yet. Either that or we are many kilometres below the barrel and are currently hurtling downwards to the molten core of the earth.

2018, a time when according to the film Bladerunner, we would have real-life replicants and flying cars, instead saw the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’. This involved actual human beings with finely honed and attuned senses, that have evolved over millennia of natural-selection (If you’re a creationist, then your God-given senses. Either way they exist) to be able to identify potentially poisonous food sources that could lead to fatal gastric injury, willingly ingest laundry detergent pods. In 2015 it was on the American satirical website, The Onion. By 2018, it’s no longer satire, but sad, depressing reality instead. Again proving that we now live in a post-satire age.

At one point things got so bad the website Buzzfeed published an article titled: ‘This Is What Will Happen To Your Body If You Eat A Tide Pod’. The following paragraphs are taken from the article:

The very first thing you should do is wash out the mouth and drink water or milk to dilute the detergent“, Anderson [Jana L. Anderson, pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota] says, and do not try to induce vomiting. Then, according to the physician, you should call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) if the symptoms are mild or moderate. These include irritation and burning in the mouth and oesophagus, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea, and drooling in children.

If symptoms become severe or you experience prolonged vomiting, wheezing, severe drowsiness, or trouble breathing — call 911 or go to the hospital. When it comes to treatment, there’s no detergent antidote. “We usually just offer supportive care, so if there’s burning in the oesophagus we’ll give you an IV and an endoscopy or if you are in respiratory distress we’ll put you on a CPAP or ventilator until things improve,” Anderson says.

Well, there you have it. Advice for teenagers and adults with phone numbers and emergency treatment procedures to be taken in the event that they voluntary swallow a detergent pod. As you can tell, the above statement is for an American audience. I don’t know what you do if you live in the UK and partake in the ‘Tide pod challenge’. To the author’s credit, they did leave a small note at the end of the article saying, ‘I genuinely can’t believe that I had to write this article.’ Neither can the rest of us, Caroline. Neither can the rest of us.

At our current rate, by 2020, most schools will send their teachers on yet another course called ‘Meme based detergent ingestion and how to prevent it: The facts and fallacies.’ It’s all but inevitable.

The majority of these participants in all these challenges are teenagers. Perhaps their brains haven’t fully developed yet? According to a recent study adolescence now lasts until were twenty-four and that the brains of adolescents are a ‘work in progress’. Perhaps. This is a bit of an insult to the majority of teenagers and young adults who haven’t partaken in the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’, but as a society, we need to scramble around to find an excuse for such stupid behaviour, so this one is as good as any I suppose.

Talking of excuses, here’s the left-leaning website Vox:

“It just so happens that in the case of Tide Pods, thanks to the internet and all the weird humour that comes with it, we can see that an urge to eat a Tide Pod or a bath bomb might not be so odd after all. And we can also have a little fun making fun of ourselves in the process.”

I hope this was satire, but I can’t tell anymore. In the meantime, please don’t eat a tide pod. Please. How about we try a new internet challenge called the ‘Normal Person challenge.’ It might not get you as many likes on social media, but Western Civilisation would be grateful.

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David Bone 22 Articles
David is a graduate of the University of Stirling and holds a BA (Hons) in politics. Since graduating he has been employed in the third sector. His writing interests include Scottish and British politics, international relations, ideologies and megatrends.

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