Internet fads turn frightening

Remember when Internet fads were silly and harmless? When celebrityinspired memes led to trends such as “planking” and “tebowing”? Perhaps you may recall the popular YouTube videos of funny puppies and babies, or the viral Internet challenges, such as the “cold water challenge,” in which teens videotaped themselves jumping into cold pools of water, and the “cinnamon challenge” with people attempting to consume a teaspoon of cinnamon without the aid of water. These trends were, although stupid, largely harmless.

Well, times have changed and a new genre of amateur videos is trending now; behold, 20132014, the era of the “prankgonewrong.” Considering its ubiquity on social media and YouTube, it’s very likely that you’ve seen some form of this already. Prankgonewrong videos consist of viewthirsty Internet pranksters purposely provoking random individuals for the sake of entertainment. For example, pretending to siphon gas directly from people’s cars, misleading people by offering “a punch,” when actually meaning to say fruit punch, or even asking people, “you want to die?” while giving hair dye.

While these videos are incredibly foolish and dangerous, they are also wildly entertaining. Nine hundred thirty-five thousand results can be found for the “prank gone wrong” search term on YouTube, and an overwhelming majority of these videos has been posted recently, within the last year.  Popularized by famous YouTube pranksters such as Romanatwood and VitalyzdTV, a large number of people have been inspired to try this themselves. One extreme example of these pranks resulted in physical violence.

A viral Internet challenge, known as “the passout challenge,” shows teens video-taping themselves hyperventilating, after allowing their friends to apply pressure to their chest. This process induces unconsciousness and in some cases seizures by cutting off the flow of oxygen to the brain. Health experts say that inducing unconsciousness and seizures is extremely harmful as it can cause longterm brain damage, in addition to other serious risks. In 2012, David Nuno, a 15 yearold boy from California, died whilst taking part in the pass-out challenge when, after losing consciousness, he fell onto a glass table and cut his neck. This video clearly outlines the severity the practice.

The latest viral challenge, known as “the fire challenge,” is as terrible as its name suggests. In this fad, teens cover their bodies in alcohol, light themselves on fire, and then run into a water source, such as a pool, bath, or shower, in attempts to put it out. The obvious problem with this challenge is that many fail to put out the flames before suffering burns. One boy in Texas was admitted to the hospital with second-degree burns on his torso after performing the fire challenge. Although no one knows how or why this prank got popular, it can only be hoped that teens will think twice before endangering themselves for an Internet video.

Prankgonewrong, fire challenge, and passout challenge are examples of how people put aside their logic to fulfill their desire of popularizing their cyberidentities. Given the bizarre nature of these games, it’s tough to predict what fad will be next.