Since the massification of the internet, viral content has been a constant that has marked times. Videos like Baby Dancing went around the world and right now, social networks have a power to spread where viral spreads in seconds. However, it is not only funny or informative videos that go viral on the internet. The viralities in networks have also had a face of terror that had been brewing for a long time and began to make the news about 5 years ago with the Blue Whale.
This is an interesting topic because it not only involves multimedia material, but it has become interactive and participants can end up self-harming. The evolution of this dynamic in the network within young people has been alarming and is worth taking into account.
Dangerous challenges among teens hit the web
It is no secret or news that adolescence is a complicated stage, marked above all by a strong factor of rebellion. When we go through adolescence we are abandoning our childhood dynamics to enter the adult world. But we are not adults either, so it is a process that we also face alone. That is, we do not usually integrate with children and neither with adults, so that search for identity and acceptance by contemporary groups begins.
However, this entry into the adult world to which we do not yet fully belong we do it in a challenging way. It is the rebellious factor that manifests itself by constantly challenging the limits of that adult world to which they are not yet used to. In this way, these challenges, challenges and “rituals” in general, aimed at obtaining that acceptance from their peers, begin to appear.
But none of this is new, high schools and places where teenagers move in general are full of these activities. The real novelty is found in how the space occupied by the dangerous challenges of adolescents has also expanded to the web. This is what has given way to all kinds of horror viralities in networks that have made the news in recent years.
The horror viralities that have rocked the internet and social networks
Lick toilet seats
Licking toilet seats is one of those viralities of networks that can fall into many categories and terror also suits him very well. Social media can be a very strange place, and on TikTok, Ava Louise posted a video of her licking an airplane toilet with the title “Coronavirus Challenge.”
This challenge was later followed by the Californian influencer Larz 21 who titled his video on Twitter with the ironic phrase “RT To spread awarness for the coronavirus.” Days later, he posted a video from a hospital bed for contracting coronavirus.
The good news is that this type of material led the platforms to adjust their measures to prevent them from being published and disseminated.
Blackout Challenge and Choking Game
Choking-related “games” are not new either. Even, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention handles figures of 82 deaths from this activity between 1995 and 2007 in the United States. However, we know the power of social media diffusion and how these challenges have migrated to their platforms.
The Blackout Challenge went viral on TikTok precisely this year and consists of squeezing the neck with any object or hands, to block breathing. The result is that the lack of oxygen in the brain causes loss of consciousness. The Choking Game or Asphyxia Game is similar and became one of those horror viralities in networks through YouTube. The difference is that in this, the pressure on the neck stops in the first moments of the lack of oxygen, causing a pleasant sensation.
It is noteworthy that the Blackout Challange has left victims and in countries like Mexico there is news of children between 9 and 11 years old who have lost their lives due to suffocation.
One of the best known horror viralities on social networks and the internet is the Momo Challenge. Its story begins with the fact that the image of Momo (as this figure has been called) is a sculpture created by the Japanese artist Keisuke Aiso. The work was made for a special effects company and was exhibited at the Vanilla Gallery in Tokyo. In August 2016, the first photos of Momo were published on Instagram.
However, it would not be until July 2018 when it began to spread virally when it was uploaded in the Reddit / r / creepy thread, obtaining thousands of likes. In this same month, the so-called “creepypasta” or legend of terror spread throughout the internet began. A couple of YouTubers made videos talking about WhatsApp numbers associated with Momo that sent challenges and terrifying material.
One of the first investigations that involved the Momo Challenge is the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Buenos Aires. The police found conversations on WhatsApp that led them to presume that the intention was to upload the video of the event to their social networks, as part of the Momo Challenge.
In addition, according to the various accounts in this regard, writing to Momo’s WhatsApp number can insult you or send chilling material. However, it also drew attention that during the conversations, whoever was on the other side sought to obtain information from those who wrote to them. This prompted the Tabasco Computer Crimes Unit in Mexico to investigate, stating that the number in question collected information and incited violence, extortion and harassment.
It is also noteworthy that the creator of Momo himself has said that he feels a bit guilty about the terrifying effect it has had on children. For this reason, he has revealed that the sculpture has been discarded, so the little ones can rest assured that Momo is really dead.
The blue whale
After Momo, The Blue Whale must be one of the most popular horror viralities on the networks. Its origin is unclear, with a mixture of suicidal experiences among groups of Russian adolescents. What is a fact is that the challenge was to accomplish 50 tasks, 1 daily, which were increasing in difficulty, the last one was suicide.
Its confusing origin begins with a Russian girl named Rina Palenkova, who posted a selfie with a scarf covering her mouth and nose and showing the middle finger. It is noteworthy that the finger showed traces of dried blood and the title said “Goodbye.” The next day, Palenkova committed suicide and on VKontakte, Russia’s most used social network, began to be praised by many groups.
The subject becomes more horrifying when in the same year the cases of Angelina Davydova and Diana Kuznetsova, both teenagers, are added. The common point found in the investigations is that these two girls belonged to groups with similar themes. In them, an apology for suicide was made, images of Rina Palenkova and many others of blue whales were shared.
The why of blue whales as a symbol is disputed. One version indicates that it refers to the behavior of many of them in running aground and dying on the beaches, in an act similar to suicide. The point with these groups is that there was the figure of the “curators” who assigned the 50 tasks, the last being suicide. An investigation by Galina Mursalieva speaks of 130 suicides between November 2015 and April 2016.
But these cases transcended Russia and also reached the United States, India, Portugal, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Although in Russia a person who claimed to be the creator of the game was tried, in the rest of the countries it is more complicated because it involves groups of young people replicating the activity.
The viral terror in the networks right now
We have seen 4 cases that we have considered the most popular horror viralities in networks, although they are not the only ones. However, an interesting change can be noticed between what was presented between 2017 and 2018 and what we see now. That is, we went from the chilling stories of Momo and The Blue Whale, to people licking a toilet. While it can be seen as self-harming content, this change has been due to platforms adjusting the content they tolerate.
In this way, groups that apologize for suicide on Facebook, users with similar behaviors on Twitter or videos of this type on TikTok, can be addressed by its algorithm automatically. The same has happened with material that misinforms or puts people at risk of contracting Coronavirus. The different social networks have been less and less tolerant of these cases.
In that sense, we could speak of remarkable progress in the fact of cleaning up social networks with content that invites violence and self-harm. Although we cannot claim victory because there are still many cases that we do not know about in WhatsApp groups and other messaging platforms, these are increasingly under the scrutiny of authorities and the media.