2016 has been the Year of the Challenge, and I’m not talking about the challenging things that people here and abroad have had to deal with so far this year. I’m talking about the viral “challenges” that have sprung up on the Internet.
It always starts the same: a video arises of people doing some silly yet entertaining activity. Next thing you know, the video inspires other people to do videos of their own. In these past few years, people have taken part in challenges that ranged from the entertaining (remember that “Harlem Shake” craze?) to the philanthropic (the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) to the downright stupid (I still have no idea what made people want to down dry cinnamon for the Cinnamon Challenge).
This year, we had a slew of them. There was the Running Man Challenge, where people did videos of themselves two-stepping in place to Ghost Town DJs’ 20-year-old club banger “My Boo.” (Several people, myself included, took umbrage with this particular challenge, since they weren’t actually doing the Running Man dance.) There also were plenty of videos of kids doing the same dance moves to Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall’s “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem).” There were food-eating challenges, mainly consisting of foods that are incredibly spicy. People have filmed themselves eating spicy ramen noodles (known as the “fire noodle” challenge) or downing an entire Carolina Reaper pepper – the hottest pepper currently out there – while trying not to vomit or pass out.
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As of late, the big challenge online is the Mannequin Challenge, where a camera snakes around a scene where people are impressively standing still, usually to the sound of the Rae Sremmurd hit “Black Beatles.” This challenge has definitely taken the online world by storm, as everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Adele to Beyonce and her former Destiny’s Child bandmates to the cast of “Saturday Night Live” to the recent recipients (Bruce! Kareem! Ellen!) of the Presidential Medal of Freedom have done their own Mannequin Challenge videos.
If you’re wondering how something like this can spread like wildfire, it usually comes back to one source: bored teenagers. Yeah, youngsters are usually the first to set off challenges like this. The New York Post recently interviewed Jasmine Cavins, the high school junior responsible for putting the first Mannequin Challenge online. “One day my friend walked to the front of the class and just stood there, so me and my friend joined her and we started doing crazy poses, so my friend was like, ‘We can make this a challenge,’ ” Cavins told the Post. After posting it on her Twitter page, other classes from other schools joined in on the fun. Then, it just snowballed from there.
There are those challenges that are more absurd than impressive. Take the Fight the Air Challenge, where teenagers have been literally starting fights with people who are not there, often punching and jabbing at thin air, and capturing it all on video. There is also the Andy’s Coming Challenge, which references the movie “Toy Story.” Someone yells “Andy’s coming!” (Andy was the owner of all those toys) and everyone falls out like they are inanimate toys. This particular challenge now has a spin-off called the Trump’s Coming Challenge, where someone yells “Trump’s coming!” and everyone runs and scatters away.
For the youth of today, these challenges have become interesting time wasters, some goofy thing to do with your friends that you could possibly gain some viral traction off of. I just hope, as these challenges emerge, they don’t become as pointlessly life-threatening as the Fire Challenge, where teens doused themselves with alcohol and briefly light themselves on fire, or the Condom Challenge, where people inserted a latex condom into a nostril and snorted it into the nasal cavity and back through the throat to be pulled out of the mouth. (There has been another, less hazardous Condom Challenge, where people filled a condom with water and dropped it on a person’s head, enveloping the person’s face.)
You know the old saying – it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. If we’re gonna keep on doing these challenges, can we keep it to just fun and games, please?