By: Cory Berlekamp
The trend of internet challenges has become increasingly more dangerous from eating a tablespoon to cinnamon to tide pods and now doing daily tasks while blindfolded like Sandra Bullock’s character in the movie Bird Box.
This has led to dangerous prank videos being uploaded to the internet to causing a car crash in Utah after a girl attempted to drive with her beanie over her eyes. These challenges seem to lose steam after a couple of weeks but according to Dr. Kit Medjesky, Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Findlay, these trends says more about American culture than a few YouTube videos.
“We’ve seen a rise in what is known as participatory culture and we are now ‘prosumers’,” said Medjesky. “We don’t just consume but we produce and consume both the media created for us and the media we create ourselves.”
YouTube stardom has become more than just uploading one’s opinion and gaining popularity, it has become a legitimate source of income. Business Insider reported that Jake Paul’s income from 2017 was $11.5 million making him the seventh highest paid YouTube star of that year. But according to Medjesky these challenges are not necessarily about becoming a star.
“For some people it seems like a desire to be a part of the community or the larger culture and some people want to be influencers in those communities,” said Medjesky. “But we’ve seen research where we are just searching for out place in a community, we have a globalized world but we all feel a lot more disconnected in it.
“I think these challenges offer an opportunity for us to connect with people we know and a larger community.”
After the inception of the Bird Box challenge, Netflix, who had released the film on Dec. 21, put out a statement in the first week of January pleading with people to not participate in the challenge. As of Tuesday, Jan. 15, YouTube has reportedly started to change its policy to ban and cut down on dangerous prank videos according to Engadget. But Medjesky feels that it is not the amount of people participating that is the issue. He also suspects that Netflix somehow generated the buzz about the challenge.
“The Bird Box challenge seems to be something but it’s not really, it’s not like we see hundreds of videos of people doing this. It’s because somebody did something stupid that we see shared,” said Medjesky. “Because how many people do we actually see doing these things? We see the same video over and over again, we don’t see your mom doing it.”