Ep1: How The Tide (pod) Has Turned

How did Detergent Pods end up on the forbidden fruits list?


This week’s episode takes a look at the first official meme of 2018: The Tide Pod Challenge, and explores the forces at play that would compel human beings to voluntarily consume laundry detergent for online views. I’ll explore this phenomenon in a couple of ways:

  • HISTORY: we’ll trace the origins of the temptation to eat pods all the way back to their 2012 beginnings, and to understand how we got from forum posts describing the pod’s candy-like appearance to hipster pizzerias offering Tide-Pod Themed pizzas.
  • DIGITAL CULTURE: this is a unique digital fad because it represents the collision of two internet subcultures: memes and online challenges. I’ll explain how our digital ecosystem has created the conditions that would motivate people to create shocking content and participate in these types of dangerous online activities. The popularity of viral content, the credibility associated with online popularity, the push for monetized content and the opaque algorithms used by social media all played a part in creating the perfect storm for this collision.
  • CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: we’ll also look at Proctor and Gamble’s responsibility in making such a tempting product, and give an overview of how they are managing this PR nightmare considering the detergent pod market is a billion dollar industry. Additionally, we’ll look at how sites like YouTube and Facebook have responded and what this will mean for future challenges that push boundaries.
  • PSYCHOLOGY: Finally, we’ll see how our base instincts as humans come into play. We’ll talk about the Tainted Fruit Theory and the Forbidden Fruit Effect and dive into the effectiveness of warning labels, and what happens when we tell someone they can’t do something.

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Rahaf Harfoush

Digital Anthropologist. NYT Best Selling Author. Professor. Technology and Culture are my jam. #hustleandfloat