Maggie Reid, Assistant Features Editor
Tide Pods, convenient packets of blue and orange detergent, have been in the news lately — but not for the way they clean your clothes.
“The Tide Pod Challenge” began to go viral at the end of December after the brightly-colored packets caused people to joke about the pods resembling candy or being a “forbidden fruit.” This turned into memes which started a trend of putting the household items into one’s mouth.
“A lot of times these trends turn into moral panic, it’s [treated as] more of a concern than it actually is,” said Utica College sociology professor Kyle Green. “Only a small number of people are doing it, they put it in their mouth and spit it out. It’s not really a danger.”
Despite the lack of participation in this bizarre trend, the “danger” associated with the challenge has become a topic of choice for many rather than an important issue in society, according to Green.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Center, 10,500 of 12,300 estimated exposures to laundry pods in 2017 occurred in children under the age of five. In contrast, as of Jan. 22, 2018, 86 reports were filed of teenagers misusing the pods. The number of small children consuming these pods accidentally is far more than the amount of teenagers consuming the product for views.
Trends becoming a larger issue than they actually are is something that is not new. If you look back through the years, Green said, there are many trivial things that became bigger than they should have been.
“Every year, there is something new that we are scared of,” he said. “Same old things are repeated. Challenges happen over and over, people did this before social media, it just had to travel by word of mouth, it wasn’t shared in the same way.”
Sophomore Heather Heingartner believes social media plays a big role in why this has became so popular.
“This trend is so stupid, like why would you do that?” Heingartner said. “A lot of kids are on social media, so one person did it, which led to a bunch of others thinking they could too.”
Senior Chelsy Diaz thinks kids being impressionable has something to do with the popularity.
“I think kids are doing it mostly because they are impressionable and think it’s funny,” Diaz said. “They don’t mean any harm by it.”
According to Green, there is more pressure on social media — an instant reward for views and likes. In the past, this happened on a smaller scale, but now it is much easier to measure.
Most of the videos online do not consist of people actually eating Tide Pods, but instead putting them quickly in their mouths and spitting them out.
Challenges like these throughout the years tend to follow a cycle.
An example of this would be the widespread panic in 2016 regarding clowns. Although it was not a challenge, it caused public concern when it was not a huge problem. Fear about these clowns spread across the country, despite the fact that only 100 reports were filed, and nobody was reported hurt.
“People like these types of distractions because you can have a concern not related to deeper issues, especially when the country is facing challenges such as how politically divided it is or how the country is running.” Green said.
Despite numerous articles focusing on the “danger” of this trend, Green believes it will be replaced by something else rather quickly.
“I would be surprised if people cared about ‘the Tide Pod Challenge’ a month from now,” Green said. “It will be replaced by something else that concerns and confuses us, especially older generations.”