Why I’m Not Laughing at the Tide Pod Challenge

These cookies look tasty enough to eat:

Tide Pod Challenge

Source: Pinner Punny Garrden

And I have it on good authority that these shots are delectable:

Tide Pod Challenge

Photo credit: Tipsybartender.com

But……….

About The Tide Pod Challenge

I suspect my opinion on this may put me in a minority, as I am taking a fuddy-duddy, somewhat humorless approach. I’ll have to take being in the minority.

If You’ve Been Under a Rock

The Tide Pod challenge is one of the most recent in a string of “kid dare” challenges that have gained additional momentum thanks to social media and the internet. Participants in the challenge put laundry pods into their mouths (usually Tide brand) and film and/or stream themselves doing so. (Facebook and YouTube have begun removing any depiction of someone doing the challenge.) This history is also informative.

Why the Tide Pod Challenge Has Taken Off

Who’s to say what makes one stupid prank go viral while others falter? If I knew what makes things go viral, my blog numbers would be much better. I suppose it boils down, to an extent, to the fact that preteens and teens do unpredictable things for reasons adults often can’t discern. Attention, of course. “Because I can” probably ranks up there.

The Tide Pod challenge is not the first “kid dare” phenomenon of the Social Media age. Innocuous-sounding (but potentially deadly) “kid dares” have probably existed as long as there have been kids.

Cases in point of other kid (and adult) dares:

Chubby Bunny, which involves stuffing your mouth with marshmallows while uttering the phrase “chubby bunny.” Admittedly, I have had the Oprah story about a child’s death that was linked to playing Chubby Bunny in my head for years — this Snopes post provides details that I had not previously realized (like the fact that the progression of the events leading to the child’s death were different from what I had always thought). An adult is also documented as having a Chubby Bunny-related death, which is a reminder that it’s not just teens and preteens making regrettable choices.

The Cinnamon Challenge, which entails consuming a spoonful of cinnamon within 60 seconds without drinking anything (while filming/streaming). The Cinnamon Challenge is not without its dangers.

The Kylie Lip Challenge, one I just learned about today. Participants place their lips into a shot glass and create a vacuum, to achieve their intention of making their lips look plumper. Besides the dangers from shattered shot glasses that succumb to the pressure, apparently some challenge participants have become permanently disfigured (more in this Washington Post article or if you can’t get past the Post’s paywall, this PopSugar piece.).

Why the Collective Humor About the Tide Pod Challenge Irritates Me

The Tide Pod challenge has become the joke du jour on social media.

My beloved alma mater joked that they have made it an admissions criteria (or maybe they really did — I can’t tell if this is serious or not):

Tide Pod Challenge

And, predictably, the Darwin references have abounded. Here’s a favorite (and one of the kinder Tweets):

Tide Pod Challenge

Although I hate to give her clicks or more exposure for it, Tomi Lahren says participation in the Tide Pod challenge is an outgrowth of liberal parenting:

The left, which dictates popular culture, brainwashes young people into believing they live in a world where 64 gender options are up for selection, everything is free, Beyonce is a god-queen and eating detergent is funny. ~ Tomi Lahren

Maybe so, Tomi, but this parent who identifies as liberal has focused more on teaching acceptance, critical thinking and compassion, all of which were sorely lacking in your recent tweets about what our President reportedly termed “S-hole countries.” I’ll take the compassion, thank you very much.

The Biggest Irritant

Before the Tide Pod challenge became a viral social media phenomenon, laundry pods were proving dangerous. By November 2012, the year they were introduced, 500 children’s injuries had been documented related to chewing on or playing with the pods and they were declared harmful by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I had been aware of the safety issues with pods since pretty much the beginning, since I am on social media so much and in so many parent-blogger communities. I wasn’t surprised – kids get into things they shouldn’t and end up being hurt.

Here’s what turned me around and changed my gut feeling about Tide Pod Challenge humor:

“Of the eight deaths directly related to laundry pods in the last five years, two were children — but six were seniors with dementia.” (Source: Consumerist)

Coming out of a three-year stint during which my father-in-law, who had short-term memory loss, lived with us, this hit me intensely. Although Dad never tried to eat a Tide pod (that I know of), I would find odd things at unusual places around the house — partially consumed candy bars he had tried to eat in the middle of the night (not that I minded him eating candy bars, of course — but his dental health had deteriorated (and he had a TUMOR blocking his esophagus), which made eating something like a Baby Ruth bar impossible, so I would find melted/degraded/partially digested bars in his bedroom that he had been too embarrassed (or something) to dispose of correctly).

The man tried to “smoke” a Slim Jim once, thinking it was a cigar.

Elderly people with dementia do odd things.

There but for the grace of God go I.

It also kind of bugs me that people are implying that participating in the Tide Pod challenge is all due to parental negligence. Most of us parents are doing our best. Heck, I accidentally allowed my treasured, wanted-more-than-anything seven-week old to roll off a twin bed onto a hardwood floor once when we were visiting relatives and I was nursing (sorry, Tenley). Mistakes happen, parents fail, kids survive (thank goodness).

(I also think some kids who made the poor choice of doing the Tide Pod challenge probably should be admitted, Florida State.)

As Rob Gronkowski notes, it’s best to keep the Tide pods out of the mouth and in the washing machine:

A Challenge to the Rest of Us

Yes, ingesting a chemical-filled, poisonous detergent packet is stupid (very).

Yes, doing so makes Darwin look prescient.

But laughing at it to the degree that is taking place currently diminishes us all, in my opinion, and introduces a poisonous element of a different kind.