I’ve been away from my desk for a couple of weeks, so by the time I became aware of the Tide Pod Challenge, it was over. No great loss: I’m not a big fan of eating soap! Luckily, though, I’m still in time to catch all the yipping about what makes “normal” people suddenly go nuts and do stupid things — like eating soap. According to the pundits, there any number of reasons — ranging from subliminal advertising and our sorry education system to the usual suspect: Donald Trump. However, the biggest bogeyman, by far, is Social Media, that vague one-size-fits-all villain that does everything but plug toilets and murder people. (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)
Let me set the record straight. Like our canine cousins, people run in packs, and they’ve been doing it for at least 100 millennia: long before Mark Zuckerberg figured out that the Internet could be manipulated to meet Harvard girls. Humans naturally have a group mentality. Social media didn’t invent that; it just makes it easier.
All you have to do is look at fashion.
There is nothing more useless than the necktie, yet men have been trying to lynch themselves with it for centuries. Actually, the necktie was born when gunpowder swept the neighbourhood in Europe. French soldiers tied scarves around their necks so they could use the loose ends to wipe the soot out of their eyes after they fired their muskets. Everyone loves a man in uniform, so tons of guys (who’d probably never even seen a battlefield) adopted the style to add a little swagger around the ladies. Apparently, it worked.
I have no personal experience with high heels, but I’ve rubbed enough female feet in my time to know Mother Nature never intended women to elevate themselves this way. Actually, high heels are nothing more than a celebrity fashion trend that went “viral” — before viral was even a word. Originally, high heels were worn by men to grip the stirrups on horseback. Makes sense. However, rumour has it that Catherine de’ Medici got so tired of stepping out of her carriage into the slime that ran in the streets of 16th century Paris that, one afternoon, she borrowed a pair of her husband, Henry II’s, high-heeled boots. The Medici girls were uber-trendy before the Kardashians ever thought about it, and high heels have been de rigueur in high society ever since.
And it goes on and on:
In the 1920s, women wrapped their breasts to simulate a flat chest (that’s gotta hurt) and, in the 40s, men wore trousers baggy enough to share with a friend.
A little closer to home, remember the ubiquitous fanny packs? They were everywhere until we all discovered they were the international symbol for Steal My Stuff.
Crocs! (I’m not going to say another word because I know most of us have a secret pair stashed away somewhere.)
My point is, wasting time blaming Social Media for people eating soap is as ridiculous as my wife and I cussing out the French every time we have to go to a formal dinner. Why bother? So instead of asking ourselves, “Why are so many people eating soap?” we should be seriously looking at why our society produces soap eaters, in the first place.