TikTok’s Viral #PeeYourPantsChallenge Questions Conformity And Digital Footprints
First uploaded to TikTok by Liam Weyer on April 18th, and then re-uploaded three days later due to a platform removal, The Pee Your Pants Challenge is the internet’s latest craze.
Want to guess how to participate?
That’s right. The easiest path to viral stardom is to now urinate yourself on camera.
While Weyer asserts his now meme was created as satire of other ridiculous challenges on the platform, his spoof is a symbolic ouroboros — a snake eating its own tail. He did not intend others would participate, “but it certainly says a lot about social media, and in particular TikTok’s user base.”
His #PeeYourPantsChallenge now has countless uploads totaling over 4M views. (Note: Since publication, TikTok removed Liam’s video once again.)
But such a meme comes at an interesting time. With online classes wrapping up for the semester, million of young adults are vying for competitive internship opportunities — roles even more coveted amidst global hiring freezes. With seven in ten employers using social networking sites to research job candidates, now may not be the best time to pee yourself online.
Weyer has no regrets.
He shared, “I personally am not worried about this event’s effect on my online presence. I am a filmmaker/comedian, which is a unique profession to be in when it comes to the media. For others however, it is possible that they may regret their posts, especially if it comes to have an effect on their real life.”
Other videos are intentionally not linked with this in mind.
The permanency of participatory memes has always been concerning, especially considering their absurdism. But while recent dangerous memes like the Kiki, BirdBox, Eye Bleaching and Vacuum Challenges are easy to condemn and judge its entrants by, peeing yourself is significantly more perplexing.
This self-deprecation tip-toes the line of being in on the joke. “You can’t laugh at me peeing my pants, when I already know how absurd it is.” But not all laughs are with the creator. Many are at them. Joining the challenge simultaneously puts you on the outside. Perhaps just as cringeworthy, others are are pretending to join, only to then pause to denounce the challenge — obviously unneeded. They too feel “got” by Weyer. As to be expected, there are unfortunately no winners with the #PeeYourPantsChallenge.
That the perceived barriers to “fame” are so high, and so many are desensitized, it’s concerning that wetting yourself is considered an effective technique in cutting through today. Digital footprints, or the permanent trails of our online activity were once thought of as reminders to be mindful of our behavior. Today however, they’re a mere nuisance.
When nearsighted conformity outweighs longview professionalism there is a lesson to be learned.
In 1951, Yale psychologist Solomon Asch demonstrated the power of conformity when his research participants knowingly answered questions incorrectly just to comply with the group. While engaging in ridiculous behavior online doesn’t always call into question one’s deeply held values, it’s worth noting how unbelievably quick many people are to join that group. Sometimes this can be dangerous.
When we press the record button, we mindlessly surrender ourselves to the spell of online social conformity. Considering current susceptibility, we must brace for what tomorrow’s challenge may be. When we knowingly embarrass ourselves or engage in behavior that would otherwise be irrational in isolation, we should question what it means that we’re more willing to engage if it’s on display for all to see.
According to Weyer, “TikTok is different from any other platform, as its mission is not producing content for consumers, or connecting us to friends. TikTok maintains users by giving people the idea that anyone can be famous. This leads to videos that are not created with any sort of goal in mind other than to gain as many likes as possible. And, many times the content that goes viral is not the content you would want the whole world to see, which I think is a really interesting sort of paradox that I hoped to communicate through my video.”
Sitting packed at the global lunchroom table, we’re witnessing peer pressure on the largest scale in human history, and our thirst for participation is eclipsing rationale and reason. If we are what we share, then we must actively determine what we’re becoming.