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What’s with all the viral tag challenges on social media?

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Lauren Geall
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Viral tag challenges such as the “run five, donate five, tag five” trend and “the 30 day song challenge” have become the latest form of lockdown entertainment – but is there more to this new trend than simply boredom-busting?

If you’ve spent any time on social media over the last couple of weeks, you’ll probably have noticed the massive number of viral challenges going on right now.

First, there was the “until tomorrow” challenge, where users were challenged to post an unflattering picture of themselves with the cryptic caption “until tomorrow”. Anyone who liked the photo was then sent a message from the poster daring them to do the same.

Then came the “toilet roll challenge,” which saw celebrities and sports stars alike challenge their famous friends to try and keep a toilet roll off the ground for as long as possible using their feet. 

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This week, people have been challenging their friends to share pictures of themselves when they were 20, and then there’s the “run five, donate five, tag five” trend which challenges people to run 5km, donate £5 and then nominate five of their friends to do the same. And that’s not forgetting the “pillow challenge”, “30 day song challenge” and “all in challenge”, either. 

It’s hard to pinpoint where these things come from, but within a day or so, everyone you know – including your Mum, colleague and gap-year friend you haven’t spoken to in 10 years – is getting involved.

Of course, these things have always existed online (who else remembers the ice bucket challenge?) but it seems that lockdown has inspired an unprecedented number of these viral activities. Sure, we’ve got a lot of time on our hands right now, but that can’t be the only reason behind this rise, can it? 

According to Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist at YAFTA, the rise in these viral challenges could be to do with our isolation – in a time when we’re all separated, we’re using these tag challenges to reach out to friends and engage with people, albeit through a screen.

“These challenges are a form of communication, a way for us to reach out to other people and feel connected during a time where we feel isolated and possibly lonely,” she explains.

“The practicality of participating in these activities online is akin to participating in a community activity with a group, and gives us a feeling of commonality and connection with others.”

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It feels a little bit sad to admit it, but there is something nice about being tagged in one of these challenges, especially at a time when communication with our friends and family is being put under pressure. It’s likely why TikTok has seen such a surge in users, too – engaging with people on social media is providing us with the connection we crave under isolation, so it makes sense that being included in something feels good right now, even if it is a silly online challenge.

“These challenges might encourage us to reach out to people who we might not have previously connected with,” Armitage adds.

“It’s possible that they could even help to foster new friendships or rekindle old friendships.”

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