We have social media to thank for some of the modern era’s most important revolutions. The Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and even important fundraisers like the #IceBucketChallenge wouldn’t have succeeded without the help of social media.
Other social media trends, however, have been completely ridiculous. Most of these trends come and go in a flash, but new foolish trends are popping up all over the place. Before you take your next selfie at Chernobyl, check out the dumbest trends to ever exist on social media.
Needless to say, please don’t try any of these former social media trends, as they won’t make you any cooler (or safer).
The “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” Event
In the summer of 2019, 2 million Facebook users hopped on a virtual bandwagon to storm the legendary Area 51. The event, which eventually caught the attention of government officials, was removed from Facebook after violating the site’s Community Guidelines.
The US military released a threatening statement ahead of the event, discouraging anyone from trying to break into an area where they train armed forces. Area 51 has remained an extraterrestrial mystery for decades, and it looks like the mystery will have to continue.
This disturbing trend only requires your cell phone and a lack of privacy concerns. All you have to do is text your “number neighbor” or “text door neighbor” and share your exchange on social media. Your “number neighbor” is someone with a one-digit difference from your own phone number.
This sounds like a harmless good time, but it’s not exactly a smart move. If your “number neighbor” is a minor and you’re not, you’re entering some dicey territory. Also, not everyone wants to meet their “text door neighbor,” so you may not like the response you get.
Selfies at Serious Places
In 2013, a Tumblr page launched in response to a bizarre trend writer Jason Feifer noticed on vacation. As he explored the Anne Frank Memorial, tourists of all ages were taking selfies in front of the historically significant location. That’s how Selfies at Serious Places was born.
By highlighting the poor judgment behind these pics, Feifer’s Tumblr page made selfies at concentration camps, funerals and Chernobyl the new cringe-worthy internet fad. These types of photos shouldn’t have had to be so publicly ridiculed, but at least the behavior died down as a result.
The #FireChallenge of 2014 was one of the most dangerous and disastrous trends to invade social media. With the cameras rolling, participants would willingly cover themselves in a flammable liquid and then set themselves ablaze. Firefighters, police officers and social media sites had to publicly denounce the practice to protect the public’s safety.
Unfortunately, this challenge has lingered and resulted in serious damage. A 12-year old girl suffered serious burns after trying the challenge with her friends. One teenager described the after-burn as “unbearable.”
Please, if you’re reading this, don’t set yourself on fire for views. It’s very dangerous and very stupid.
This cute but foolish way to trick your pets trended in the summer of 2018. All you needed was a blanket and your dog or cat’s attention to play. Simply lift the blanket in front of your pet, let them know you’re right behind it and then drop the blanket while you rush into another room.
It’s a quick bait-and-switch trick that caught countless animals off guard. Personally speaking, the best videos featured animals that couldn’t care less about the joke at their expense. The real joke was on the person making the video, which as a viewer, is much more satisfying than a scared kitty.
The FaceApp first went viral in 2017 and early adapters were instantly hooked on its age altering photoshop skills. In 2019, celebs hopped on board, and 80 million users plunged into the #FaceAppChallenge. Going viral twice is quite an accomplishment for one app, but FaceApp fell prey to a dangerous internet rumor soon after its second wind.
According to one viral Tweet, a web developer warned users that the Russian-based app’s agreement permitted access to all of your phone’s photos. Even the pics you didn’t use in the app. This gave the app a dangerous reputation, and reports of the Tweet’s inaccuracy were much quieter in the end than the fear-based fake claim.
This challenge, which actually traces all the way back to 2001, is a bizarre abuse of a delicious spice. The challenge is simple: film yourself eating one spoonful of cinnamon in under a minute without drinking anything to help. After coughing and/or vomiting, upload the messy carnage online.
The point of the challenge is to watch people go through terrible throat pain as the cinnamon coats and dries their mouths. Most people wind up spitting a cloud of tan dust in pain and hopefully question their life choices afterward.
Don’t do this trend. It has the potential to cause long term breathing difficulties, pneumonia or a collapsed lung.
The Harlem Shake
In 2012, American DJ Bauuer released his debut, uptempo dance track “Harlem Shake.” It was a catchy blend of trap, dance and bass music, but it didn’t catch on until almost a year later. The reason? People started uploading clips on YouTube of themselves raging to the song.
The Harlem Shake meme was simple enough to replicate. All you do is film a quiet room with people looking busy or bored and then have everyone go crazy when the beat drops. After Billboard started incorporating YouTube views of songs into their ranking system, Bauuer launched into the number 1 spot.
In 2015, reality TV star Kylie Jenner’s face looked very different. Plenty of viewers watched her grow up from the time she was little, so it was surprising to see her on red carpets with a new set of lips.
Fans, social media followers and the media mocked her for altering her appearance at such a young age. But then people tried replicating her perkier pout by participating in the #KylieJennerChallenge. First, you grab a shot glass, then place it over your lips and suck.
Doctors don’t recommend doing this as you’ll break blood vessels around your mouth.
This peculiar trend has been around for decades, but planking first caught social media’s attention in 2009. Suddenly, everyone was sharing photos of themselves lying face down in bizarre and hard-to-reach locations. The more bizarre the location, the better the planking pic.
The trend caught on in a major way. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key stood in front of his planking son, Max, and it made the front page of the New Zealand Herald. He was immediately panned for “killing the meme”. Turns out you can’t be a powerful leader with a sense of humor.
Makeup and body art are major players on Instagram. Having a bedazzled belly or matte foundation can earn you some serious followers, but in 2015, trendsetters took body art to a whole new level. People would strategically put sunscreen on certain parts of their bodies while letting other parts burn. The result? #sunburnart
It’s sunburn for the sake of art, but it’s super damaging to your body. The Skin Care Foundation had to release a statement in response to the growing trend, urging others not to do it. Sunburns can be super painful. But too many of them put a person at risk for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Don’t do this one, either.
The Tide Pod Challenge
This trend is by far one of the most dangerous internet fads in social media history. Tide released their initial packaging for the individually sized laundry pods in 2012, but the media ran wild years later with reports that children mistook them for candy and might eat them.
The internet found the accusation funny, so people retaliated by filming themselves eating the pods. The clips were quickly taken down as the Tide Pod Challenge was no laughing matter. In less than a year, there were almost 8,000 cases of children poisoning themselves with laundry pods.
Don’t do this trend, either.
Hot Dog Legs
In 2013, one Instagram comment launched this popular, beachside trend. When Tumblr user @andrewpauldavis saw a pair of legs in a bathtub, he thought they looked like hot dogs. Tumblr loved the visual, and a page devoted exclusively to beachside selfies of bare legs that may or may not be hot dogs was born.
The bronze, pink summer skin in the photos look very similar to hot dogs, so sometimes it’s challenging to differentiate hot dogs from legs. It’s a bizarre, foolish social media trend, but at least it doesn’t put your body in harm’s way.
This feline trend took Facebook by storm at the start of 2012. First, you take a piece of bread and cut a hole 1-inch larger than your cat’s head. Keep your kitty calm as you gently place the bread around your cat’s head. Take a picture. Then become a social media legend.
Some cat owners gave it a shot to varying degrees of success. Other owners realized there may be repercussions to disrupting your peaceful feline and avoided the trend. Let’s be real, cats can be pretty unpredictable. Leave your little one alone, and don’t waste food!
This trend is not only dumb, but it’s also super wasteful. Gallon Smashing requires two gallons of milk and total shamelessness. Often taking place in a supermarket, the Gallon Smasher must first smash the gallon jugs on the ground and then pretend to slip.
The social media gold comes two-fold: you get to see someone fall AND someone else turns to look surprised at the person who fell on purpose. Hate to sound like a buzzkill, but someone has to clean up after your stupid prank, and it more than likely is someone else. Which is rude. Also, again, don’t waste food.
This may be the most dangerous kind of selfie out there. Skyscraper selfies require someone to scale the tallest buildings around and engage in extremely dangerous photo shoots. Sometimes referred to as “roofing,” this trend really caught on in Russia and Asia.
Angelina Nikolau has made a name for herself on social media thanks to her countless skyscraper selfies around Eastern Europe and Asia. This trend is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who gets clammy hands while looking at other people’s skyscraper selfies.
You know you’ve seen a flash mob. Since their debut in 2003, it’s likely you even participated in them. They’re the viral dance routines in the middle of Times Square. They’re the choreographed marriage proposals in aisle 3 of Home Depot. They’re the viral video clips on social media where a large group of people assemble to do something totally random and then leave immediately afterward.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about flash mobs is that they’re still happening. Social media trends have a shelf life of about three days, so it’s wild to see flash mobs in 2019 out in the wild. They’ve since become great tools for major protests, as the bizarre behavior can be leveraged to call attention to worthy causes.
Drake has a lot of people to thank for the success of his 2018 hit “In My Feelings”. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a certified bop. But it wasn’t until the #InMyFeelingsChallenge went viral that his song topped the charts.
Here’s how it works: while someone drives (and films), the passenger hops out of the moving car, leaving the door open so they can plead to Keke like Drake. There are so many dangerous clips of this viral trend going sour that highway signs went up encouraging people to stay in their cars.
The game is simple: each person takes a turn shoving one marshmallow in their mouth and saying, “Chubby Bunny.” This goes on until your mouth is so stuffed it can no longer hold marshmallows. Or until you can no longer say “Chubby Bunny.”
This stupid trend can get messy, so be mindful of whatever clothes you’re wearing. Also – don’t choke on the marshmallows. Whoever came up with this game is still a mystery, but there was a 1959 Peanuts comic where Snoopy stuffed his mouth with marshmallows. Just saying.
The Condom Snorting Challenge
This is another bizarre case of “teens do the dumbest things”. Parents and medical professionals alike were up in arms in 2018 when kids on social media were doing the Condom Snorting Challenge. The trend is exactly how it sounds, and yes, it’s absolutely stupid to do.
According to doctors, the biggest risk is that snorting condoms can be a major choking hazard. As terrible as that sounds, it could also get stuck in your throat and cause infection. So please, teens, find some safer way to impress others and cheat death at your next social gathering.
The Mannequin Challenge
Another hit song, another viral trend on social media. In 2016, rap duo Rae Sremmurd released the music video for “Black Beatles”. Throughout the video, people remain completely motionless while the camera moves around them. Everyone looked like mannequins.
That was enough inspiration for social media, and the #MannequinChallenge was born. People all over were putting together their own versions of the video with the music in the background. Millions of views later, Rae Sremmurd had themselves a #1 song on the Billboard charts.
The 24-Hour Overnight Challenge
Do you know where your teen is sleeping? If they’re trying to complete the 24-Hour Overnight Challenge, then the answer is likely “No.” That’s the point of the challenge: teens and young adults in 2016 started camping overnight in chain stores and restaurants.
All you have to do is sneak in before closing time, and hide undetected until the next day. This is another social media trend that parents won’t approve of, as kids are doing it without their parents’ permission. An 11-year-old boy from Britain, for example, caused a massive police hunt in 2018, but it turns out he was just camping out in an IKEA.
Cats vs. Cucumbers
In 2015, people needed a new way to irritate their cats. Enter Cats vs. Cucumbers. The premise is quite simple: While your cat is busy eating or licking itself, place a cucumber just out of its line of vision. When it catches a glimpse, hopefully, you’ve got your camera running.
Sometimes the cats jump in terror. Other times, nothing happens. But should you be doing this to your pet? Cat behavioral experts weighed in, saying that scaring animals by their feeding areas can stress them out and cause harmful, long term damage to how safe they feel.
Again, stop messing with your pets!
The Falling Stars Challenge
This social media trend was all about extravagance. And looking injured. To get the right photo, all you had to do was look like you fell flat on your face with your possessions scattered around you. It started in Russia and evolved into a competition to show off how incredibly wealthy you were.
Eventually, it took the social media world by storm, and the less fortunate put their own twist on the trend. Instead of showing off designer clothing and jewelry, people would show items that spoke more to their character. Which, in comparison to the self-mutilating challenges, sounds much more pleasant.
At first, this trend came from a good place. At least that’s beauty blogger and #DontJudgeChallenge creator Em Ford’s story. In a 2015 clip from her YouTube channel, the blogger wipes off her makeup to reveal her true self in an attempt to denounce beauty standards.
Her wholesome, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” attempt went viral, but social media quickly turned the trend into rubbish. Instead of posting empowering photos and videos, people instead made themselves look uglier by drawing on fake unibrows, acne and freckles. The hashtag was, unfortunately, hijacked by pranksters.
The Momo Challenge
This one is a classic case of web hysteria and parents not talking enough with their children. According to news reports in 2019, the Momo Challenge was a game on social media where images of a demonic chicken lady slides into your child’s DMs with commands to commit violence against others.
Social media representatives and web experts claimed there was no evidence that any child was driven to violence by the Momo Lady. A little bit of internet sleuthing later, the first image of the Momo Lady was found. She wasn’t a demonic chicken lady coming after your children. She was an art sculpture in 2016 by a Japanese artist.
The Backpack Challenge
This 2016 trend had the potential to be really dangerous. One person tries to run through two rows of people that all launch their backpacks to knock down the runner. These chaotic clips were all the rage to high schoolers, but this challenge could have seriously injured someone.
Remember how heavy your textbooks were in high school? They were massive! It’s honestly a surprise that we didn’t all get scoliosis. Now imagine thirty backpacks filled with heavy textbooks getting launched in your direction.
Not the most enjoyable (or intelligent) viral trend.
This paranormal trend actually dates back many years. In Spain, multiple generations of young people have played Juego de la Lapicera (the pencil game). In 2015, it made its crossover to the States, renamed the #CharlieCharlie challenge. All you need are two pencils and a piece of paper.
First, you label four sections of the paper “yes” or “no”. Next, you balance two pencils perpendicular on top of each other, creating a grid. Then, you ask Charlie, the all-knowing supernatural entity, a question. The supernatural forces (or the wind) will point to the right answer. It’s about as magical as a Magic 8-Ball.
This trend is also one of the most dangerous on this list. Dating back to the 1980s, car surfing is when someone hops on top of a moving car and pretends to ride it like a surfboard. Trust us when we say “DO NOT DO THIS!”
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control, 58 deaths were associated with car surfing between 1990 to August 2008. Adrenaline junkies and teenage boys beware, stay in the seat of your car and stop trying to car surf.
The Banana Sprite Challenge
This eating challenge is gross to the core. Challengers are tasked with quickly eating two bananas and following them up with one liter of Sprite. This is where things get gross. You win the challenge if you don’t vomit afterward.
The challenge implies that the body can’t digest bananas and carbonated beverages at the same time. It’s also possible that your body ate too much too fast, resulting in vomiting. This challenge, like any other food challenge, is not a dish that we’d like to eat.