How These 7 Deadly Social Media Challenges Ended In Tragedy

Published December 19, 2023

Tide Pod Challenge

Tide Pod Social Media Challenge

ABC 13Videos of people biting into Tide Pods went viral on social media platforms around 2018.

One of the most well-known — and frequently mocked — social media challenges has been the Tide Pod Challenge.

It is unclear exactly how the challenge began, but many attribute it to a satirical article about the laundry detergent pouches that was published by The Onion in 2015: “So Help Me God, I’m Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods.” Soon afterward, jokes about eating Tide Pods showed up in internet memes. But some people took the joke too far.

According to The Washington Post, at least 220 teens consumed Tide Pods in 2017, which led to frantic calls to U.S. poison control centers. And the American Association of Poison Control Centers found that 25 percent of those cases were intentional. In just the first half of the first month of 2018, there were already nearly 40 cases — half of which were intentional.

Many experts blamed the Tide Pod Challenge, which involved teens biting into Tide Pods, filming their reactions on camera, and posting it on social media. “This is what started out as a joke on the internet and now it’s just gone too far,” said Ann Marie Buerkle, the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at the time, in an interview with CBS News.

Even those participating in the social media challenge recognized that it was a poor decision to make. “A lot of people were just saying how stupid I was or how — why would I be willing to do that,” said 19-year-old Marc Pagan, who admitted that he did it on a dare from his friends. “No one should be putting anything like that in their mouths, you know?”

But despite the many poisoning cases that occurred from this challenge, it’s worth noting that no teenager has died because of it. However, at least 10 young children and senior citizens have died after ingesting Tide Pods, a sobering reminder of how poisonous these detergent pouches are.

While the actual occurrences of people eating Tide Pods was far lower than it seemed, the national outcry from concerned parents and organizations led Tide to release a statement warning customers on Twitter about the dangers of eating the pouches: “What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else. Eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA.”

author
Hannah Reilly Holtz
author
Hannah Reilly is an editorial fellow with All That's Interesting. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Press Association Scholar. Previously, she has worked for KCBD NewsChannel 11 and at Texas Tech University as a multimedia specialist.
editor
Jaclyn Anglis
editor
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.