It’s easy to see why the Tide Pod challenge is so popularit’s funny! We laugh because we could never imagine that someone would actually eat a cleaning agent. The thought alone is incongruous and stomach-churning, but it has somehow spurred people’s imagination and become a huge social phenomenon.

There have been many ridiculous social media-based challenges in the pastthe Cinnamon challenge, Bath Salt challenge, Kylie Jenner Lip challenge and Ice Bucket challenge, to name a few. But none have been as notorious as the recent Tide Pod challenge. For those of you living under a rock, Tide Pods became the center of an Internet meme that was trending on Twitter in December 2017. The challenge involves a dare to intentionally consume the pods, a legitimate laundry product.

While the exact origin is unknown, The Onion, a satirical newspaper, published an article in 2015 with a picture of an innocent three-year-old vowing that “come hell or high water, I would eat one of those things.” That was followed by a March 2017 video entitled “Don’t Eat The Laundry Pods” on CollegeHumor, a comedic website. In the video, a man agonized over his desire to eat Tide Pods, which he compared to Gushers. It was so amusing that it got over 2.5 million views by the end of 2017.

Even the Democratic Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, said he was tempted to eat a pod due to its bright colors back in 2012.

“I don’t know why they make them look so delicious,” Schumer said in a press conference.

The concept started as a comical prank, and many have continued to treat the Tide Pod challenge with the humor it deserves. Some have jokingly put Tide Pods in bowls of milk or on pizza to show different ways of “sampling” this goodie. A Texas father issued his own Tide Pod challenge on social media, tossing a Tide Pod in a washing machine and suggesting kids “learn how to wash your damn clothes.” Journalist Joe Phalon suggested this challenge was Darwin’s form of natural selection at work.

Illustration by Emma Winkler Prins

Ohio police took it a step further, warning the public that traffic cones are not giant candy corns and would be extremely difficult to swallow. These original and undeniably humorous responses to the Tide Pod challenge deserve all the applause and social media attention they get.

What was funny, however, has now become scary, as some kids have taken the dare seriously and ingested, or bit into Tide Pods. The manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, was so concerned it released a video by New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski discouraging the challenge. Additionally, YouTube and Facebook stated that they will remove any material showing people performing the challenge.

So now the absurd has become reality, and kids are actually eating this “forbidden fruit.” In 2017, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that of the nearly 220 cases of teens exposed to Tide Pod ingredients, about 25 percent were intentional. In the first half of January 2018, poison control centers handled 39 cases involving teenagers who were intentionally exposed to Tide Pods.

Every generation of teenagers has taken dares and done frightening, unexpected things, but not with such horrific consequences as this.

Consumer Reports stated that “swallowing conventional detergent might result in mild stomach upset, but with highly concentrated pods, the ingestion can cause excessive vomiting, lethargy and gasping, and in some reported cases, victims stopped breathing and required ventilation support.”

So what’s the point? Teenagers admit to taking up the Tide Pod challenge even while acknowledging it’s stupidity. It’s about the likes, the followers and the number of views on Instagram, as teenagers Samanthan Minasian and Kate Petitt have said to the press.

On Jan. 12, 2018, Facebook user Corey B uploaded a video of himself performing the challenge. It gathered more than 3.3 million views, 61,000 reactions and 5,900 comments over the next five days. The video has since been removed. It’s pitiful when an act of unexplainable stupidity gets more attention than the genuinely humorous responses to the challenge.

Do you really want to be known for eating a Tide Pod? For the rest of your life, when a future college admissions officer, employer or significant other Googles your name, Tide Pods will be your game. That’s not what I would want my legacy to be.

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