Ralphie would be shocked. Teenagers eating soap – on purpose!
(Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KjxFDGFKhk)
It’s origin is unclear, but the “Tide Pod Challenge” has certainly made a mark.
The New York Times reports that in the first half of January poison control centers have handled 39 cases of teenagers intentionally exposed to detergent packets – as many cases handled in 2016.
Proctor & Gamble, the consumer goods conglomerate of the Tide brand, recruited Rob Gronkowski (aka, “Gronk”) for a public service announcement (PSA) style video pleading with people to not eat detergent packets. The production quality of the video is low but the message is clear. P&G’s attempt to reach their target audience by stepping out of the bland is commendable; the Twitter video received 8 million views in it’s first 10 days. (This is not the first time that P&G has tapped Gronk to represent Tide.)
YouTube and Facebook responded by vowing to remove any material showing people who have recorded themselves purposely biting into detergent packets. This did not stop the flow of similar content appearing on Twitter in response to the Gronk PSA. Fabricated photos of celebrities and cartoon characters mugging with detergent packets, images of food incorporating detergent packets, and comments from individuals claiming to have eaten (and intending to continue to eat) detergent packs are in abundance. Even in the midst of the clean up, the spill continues.
In other mop-up news, the Hill reports that Twitter has found another 1,062 accounts tied to the Internet Research Agency – a Russian agency attributed with posting over 175,000 tweets during the 2016 presidential campaign and impersonating the Tennessee Republican party. The company also found 13,512 new Kremlin-linked bot accounts; bringing the total number of detected accounts up to 3,814 and 50,258, respectively.
Given the discovery of Russian intention to influence (and presumed impact on) the Brexit referendum as well as our 2016 presidential election through social media, it would seem that teenagers are not necessarily any more susceptible to persuasion via social media than their elders. As with the Tide pod challenge, the Russian campaigns have left their mark and undesirable content is surely still leaking through the filters.
These cracks in the social media foundation propogate when enough target audience members are primed to believe what’s being pitched, Whether it’s “here’s a wacky stunt that I just tried” or “the other side is a bunch of dimwits saying terrible things about you” all age groups need to become more savvy consumers of social media content.
Our health and well-being – and that of our democratic institutions – may hinge on it.