“Going Viral”

Annie Asplen, Paramedic, MS
Medical Writer, Regulatory Assistant, Senior Information Specialist

We live in an age where “going viral” is the goal of every blogger, YouTube personality, and internet troll with a keyboard. While this may seem like an easy road to notoriety, some people seem to be perfectly okay with becoming famous for all the wrong reasons. This has been done with inarguably bad songs, inaccurate health advice, and in some cases, dangerous misuse of consumer products.

One of the most famous examples is probably “The Tide Pod Challenge” of recent years. It was a phenomenon that went viral, prompting the manufacturer of Tide Pods to enlist the help of the NFL’s Rob Gronkowski in a public service announcement advising people as to just how dangerous this practice was and how serious and life-threatening the outcome could be. The challenge involved teenagers daring each other to bite into laundry pods (not necessarily Tide brand), the small, colorful packets of concentrated detergent that are meant to be neatly tossed into a load of laundry without having to measure liquid. And of course, participants are to film themselves doing it, and then post the videos online for others to laugh at.

In a true moment of words-we-never-thought-we’d-have-to-say, it is dangerous to eat laundry detergent. If swallowed, it can cause problems ranging from gastrointestinal distress to serious toxicity. It can also be inhaled as the packets burst, causing injury to the lungs. According to CBS news (January 12, 2018), at least ten deaths have been linked to ingesting laundry pods.

Many such fads have made their way through the internet, from eating a spoonful of dry cinnamon on camera to dousing a body part in a flammable liquid and setting it on fire. These don’t appear to be going away any time soon. Whenever one trend has run its course, there’s always another to take its place. While the allure of going viral may seem worth it at the time, please trust us: it isn’t.

In these times of people finding themselves bored and cooped up in their homes, let’s make sure they don’t engage in dangerous practices promoted on the internet. Our goal is to keep people safe, and we can help do this by identifying patterns of dangerous behavior. This allows manufacturers to address the issues through public education or product redesign. We hope that by working together with our clients, we can convince the public to put their own safety before their fifteen minutes of fame.

Annie has been with SafetyCall for 11 years. She loves her job and says she has never felt more appreciated by an employer. She is a licensed paramedic and also has her Master’s degree in professional and technical communication. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her 20 month old son, Wade. 

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