The Tide Pod Challenge: proof that humanity is doomed?

*Facepalm*

Guys, you won’t believe this, but someone’s done something stupid on the internet. Strange, considering we’ve always considered the online world to be a realm of reasoned debated and refined sensibilities, but an ugly stain has been cast upon this pristine locale.

That stain is called… ‘The Tide Pod Challenge’.

WTF is a Tide pod? Well, Tide is an American brand of detergent – so far, so sensible and mundane. WTF, then, is a “Tide Pod Challenge?’ Here’s where it all gets a bit Darwinian. It’s a viral video meme that’s taken off in recent weeks, and involves YouTubers uploading videos of themselves eating those detergent pods you stick in the washing machine with your clothes.

Even a small amount can make you puke, shit yourself or have difficulty breathing . You might even die if the detergent enters your lungs. But, like Eve warned against eating that apple, hungry YouTubers simply can’t get enough of those tasty, tasty pods.

There’s been an outcry from parents, Tide and anyone with half a brain. As a result, most Tide Pod Challenge videos have been stripped down from YouTube, though some have been archived in the form of Instagram videos. It appears that the meme may have begun life as a 2015 article by parody news site The Onion. A follow-up published at the end of last year, headlined ‘Tide Debuts New Sour Apple Detergent Pods’, riffs on real-life scare stories about children accidentally eating detergent pods, comically claiming that the brand has unveiled a new flavour to keep the kids entertained.

READ MORE: We need to talk about… YouTube. Here’s why the platform needs to get with the programme

Ho ho – fun joke, eh? Earlier this year, though, vloggers began to stick ’em in their mouths for real, proving you should never overestimate the intelligence of the average YouTuber. The Tide brand has responded in kind, tweeting a video that features American football player Rob Gronkowski telling the kids to just say no to pods.

Tide also uploaded a more sincere YouTube video about keeping children safe from detergent, along with guidelines on its website. Nothing there about not indulging dumbo vloggers who’ll debase themselves in varying ways in exchange for views, but how much can one detergent brand really do? Even more ridiculously, the US Federal Agency joined in the backlash, tweeting: “HUMAN PEOPLE UNITED AGAINST EATING LAUNDRY PODS.”

Are we entering end times? Model and all-round Twitter don Chrissy Teigen has drawn a chilling link with regards to all this, and she’s not the only one having fun with the phenomenon.

What have we learned here? That detergent pods ain’t food, people ain’t smart and YouTube is not exactly a Mensa convention. No, you’re right, we’ve learned nothing and the end may well be nigh. Still – kids, stay off the Tide Pods, yeah?