We all know the ‘Tide Pod challenge’ meme, the online trend which is encouraging teenagers everywhere to eat poison.
We’ve seen videos of people eating them straight up, we’ve seen them on pizza, and we’ve even seen someone vape the laundry pods, and it’s really difficult to understand just why people are doing it.
Except it isn’t. There really is something strangely alluring about any single-use laundry capsule, and it’s rooted in psychology and science.
First of all let’s get out of the warning that in no way is this an endorsement of anyone eating Tide Pods or any other laundry tablet, because it will seriously harm you and probably kill you.
But still, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognise a genuinely weird desire to just at least try one of the things, I mean, they smell good and feel gooey right?
This trend hasn’t just been around since the beginning of 2018, oh no. Back in 2015 satirical site The Onion posted an article entitled ‘So Help Me God, I’m Going to Eat One of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods’.
In March 2017, Funny or Die released a video called ‘Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods. (Seriously. They’re Poison)’, so we’re looking at a phenomenon which dates back way further than just the end of December and the beginning of January.
But why do we have this grim fascination with Tide Pods? Well there’s a couple of reasons for this, not least of which is the potential link between glossy foods and our innate need for water.
In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, experts argued that because of evolutionary psychology, humans are inherently drawn to glossy items which stems from the desire for water as a resource.
They dismissed the hypothesis that the reason we prefer glossy things is simply because they’re ‘pretty’, and ruled out an explanation that we are simply socialised into preferring glossy items.
So the sleek and shiny seals of the Tide Pods make us instinctively attracted to them, and it’s hard to argue with that really.
I thought y’all were so weird for talking about eating Tide pods but now I been thinking about how weird it is for so long that now I’m thinking it might not be weird and I wanna eat one too what is this
— h (@halsey) December 28, 2017
Combine that with the sweet colours and fleshy feel in your hands and damn you have yourself a tasty fruit (again it’s definitely not fruit). Colours influence just how we feel about our food, and we know that bright colours make us want to eat our food more than dull colours, so it’s just science really.
It’s not just Tide Pods which have a bizarre attraction to us, though, admit you’ve always wanted to try your vanilla shower gel or blackberry bath bomb. And yes, FYI, there have been plenty of reports of people eating them too.
There have been studies about people wanting to eat objects which mimic food. The study suggests that products like fruit scented shampoo trick people’s minds into being attracted to them.
Are tide pods gluten free?
— Jack Bevan (@jackbevan) January 26, 2018
This is probably a deliberate marketing ploy on the part of cosmetic companies, but that is probably not the case with Tide Pods.
Still, the physical appearance of the things does make it seem inherently tasty, and combined with the constant warnings not to eat the damn things, Tide Pods have become forbidden fruit.
This has propelled the meme, which is largely people just making light of the fact they’re strangely attractive, and encouraged people to actually eat it.
I feel like more people should be eating Tide pods.
— Mattzilla™️ (@mattZillaaaa) January 25, 2018
And that’s why people are really eating Tide Pods, the initial intrigue for the product turned into a joke about their delectability which has gone too far and is actually causing people to become seriously harmed.
This is why we can’t have nice things.