You don’t actually need to have seen Bird Box, Netflix’s runaway hit starring Sandra Bullock, to understand how the Bird Box challenge works. All you need to know is that Bullock and her co-stars spend the duration of the film wearing blindfolds they cannot take off or else they’ll die. (Just go with it.) The movie has become the streaming service’s most-watched ever and inspired meme upon meme — plus a challenge where people blindfold themselves and try to go a day (or some other amount of time) without removing said blindfolds.
The most-viewed challenge video comes from YouTuber Morgan Adams and has over 2 million views. (Adams, for reference, has 2.3 million followers.) The most dangerous thing she does in the video is take an escalator and, mind you, she does everything in the 24 hours she is blindfolded while accompanied by somebody who is filming her and is obviously able to see and could guide her away from danger. (Most of the videos I’ve found were not filmed by the blindfolded party.) A video with over 1,000 views shows some teens wandering around a Walmart blindfolded. They put the blindfolds on after arriving at the store. There’s another one with 2,000 views of a woman attempting to give herself a haircut. On Wednesday, Netflix issued a warning from its Twitter account asking people not to hurt themselves doing the challenge. Not asking them to stop doing it, mind you, just asking that they “not end up in the hospital due to memes.”
But for the most part, if you search YouTube for “Bird Box Challenge,” what you’ll find is not videos of people doing the challenge, but rather news clips featuring anchors wringing their hands and declaring the Bird Box Challenge this week’s Big Thing in dangerous, stupid internet trends. Many of these clips feature the same video, a man with two children, all of whom are blindfolded. In that particular clip, the younger child runs smack into a wall. (In Bird Box, Bullock carts around two blindfolded children known as “Boy” and “Girl.”)
Have parents been known to endanger their children for the cost of YouTube clicks? Yes. (The parents behind DaddyOFive, a “prank” family YouTube channel, were sentenced to five years’ probation for child neglect in 2018 as a result of their videos.) Have people been known to do stupid things under the mantle of so-called internet challenges. Also yes. (Google “duct tape challenge” if you won’t take me at my word here.) But for the most part, the Bird Box Challenge isn’t either of those things. It’s a few people putting on blindfolds for a combination of attention and maybe fun — and they’re not really putting themselves in danger.
In April 2018, the panic-inducing challenge du jour was condom snorting: a time-honored internet tradition where people, for lord only knows what reason, snort condoms through one nostril and pull them out the other, or out their mouths, and film it. (Oh, right, the reason is attention.) The challenge — which had an earlier iteration back in 2013 — was feverishly covered by media outlets declaring it dangerous and widespread. Only the former was true.
Teens weren’t snorting condoms in April. And people this month aren’t putting themselves in real danger participating in the Bird Box Challenge. Netflix, however, is getting a lot of free press.