This is a post by Jessica Silver
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The chronicles of the Internet Fad

The Internet is a colossal vacuum filled with mind-numbing content and repetitive cat videos (or strictly doggos if you're anything like me). However, what do we love even more than watching these fluffy moments? The answer is participating in it. Viral memes and challenges have become their own culture – they are infectious, gripping and can be slightly questionable in their intent. However, for fleeting moments these crazes tiptoe into our heads and overwhelm our Instagram feeds with something other than Kim Kardashian *sighs in relief*. Sorry, Northy.



Do you remember participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Of course you do, we’re all still numb from 2015. Better yet, this challenge allowed us to reach our digital quotas of good deeds for an entire year. The feel-good vibe behind fads such as the condom challenge is slightly more dubious. Marketing Professor Jonah Berger alludes to the psychological reasoning behind such crazes, stating that “transmission is driven in part by arousal… emotions characterised by high arousal, such as anxiety or amusement will boost sharing more than emotions characterised by low arousal, such as sadness”. For this reason, it’s the scandalous, gruesome and life-threatening that digitally diffuse like gossip. We all fight the urge to press the button, don’t we?  

Two more recent fads got me thinking what’s behind these crazes.

The Mukbang Challenge       
  
Watching strangers eat is no longer strange, it’s a daily occurence. It’s 2018. You can admit that Nigella Lawson is more of a boss than Kanye, I sure as hell think so. However, the Mukbang Challenge has taken food shows to new heights (and weights). Originating in Korea, Mukbang involves vloggers live streaming whilst devouring an elaborate and calorie-intensive meal. I adore a Maccas cheat meal as much as (possibly more) than the next girl, but 50,000 calories in one sitting seems a tad on the excessive side.


The question persists: what’s so gripping about gorging your food in front of thousands of strangers? The answer is culturally embedded. In South Korea, many turn to Mukbang for attention and human interaction. The social arousal from this sensation correlates with insights stipulated by Berger, as he claims that “physiological arousal is characterised by activation of the autonomic nervous system and the mobilisation provided by this excitatory state”. If having a virtual meal constitutes as socialising and releases endorphins, count me in.


Beyond the psychological lies the sensual. Slurp, crunch, munch; these noises are the social equivalent to cold-hard nails on a chalkboard. But, for a select group of special characters, these sounds are an effervescent sensation. This is known as an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), an experience where sounds cause an arousing tingling sensation down one’s neck or spine – massage, anyone? Nevertheless, it’s through this internet subculture that a second surge in Mukbang videos has transpired. ASMR and Mukbang, a match made in weird internet fad heaven.   

Mysterious boxes from the dark web (as dodgy as it sounds)

Mysterious unboxing has become the newest manic mania. Youtubers are venturing to the deepest, shadiest corners of the dark web to order enigmatic parcels. If you’re not sure what the dark web is, journey to the dodgiest and darkest road in a non-descript shanty town, take a left turn at illegality and you’ve arrived. It’s the unpredictability of unpacking these boxes that has vloggers racking up millions of views. After watching one of these videos it’s impossible not to watch fifty more. I don’t make the rules, it’s science.


From bloody screwdrivers to unidentified powders, these mysterious boxes can potentially contain anything. It’s the kind of content you hate to love. The lack of traceability and anonymity behind the parcels is risky for recipients, yet alluring for viewers. In light of Berger’s study, content virality is closely intertwined with anxiety and amusement. It’s for this reason that the dark web challenge has dispersed throughout the digital world. Safe to say most of us will be watching this challenge from the sidelines.

10 internet fads more famous than Britney's 2007 breakdown

Time for a trip down memory lane. Here are our top 10 favourite social media crazes from the past 10 years:
1.    The Mannequin Challenge
2.    Planking
3.    The Floor is Lava
4.    Cone-ing
5.    The Tide Pod Challenge
6.    The Harlem Shake
7.    What the Fluff
8.    Gangnam Style
9.    The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge
10.  The Cinnamon Challenge

From receiving illicit parcels to Korean pop sensations, who knows what will be next. Painting grass? Eating toilet paper? Preparing sushi whilst blindfolded? Whatever it may be, hit me with those push notifications!