The stupidity reached a-tok-alyptic levels.
With TikTok overtaking Google as the most popular site in 2021, the Chinese video-sharing platform unsurprisingly spawned some ridiculous trends this year as users vied for viral fame.
Some of these online pursuits — such as the delightfully wholesome classical music craze — proved inspiring. However, the lion’s share were, as in years past, so harebrained they made the infamous “Gorilla Glue” fiasco seem like a string theory symposium.
Why does it seem like TikTok’s cornered the market on dumb and dangerous stunts? It might have something to do with the fact that nearly a quarter of the site’s users in 2021 were between 10 and 19 — an age where the part of the brain responsible for impulse management is still woefully underdeveloped.
This age group is more likely to “engage in socially rewarding behavior and gravitate toward thrill-seeking, without focusing on potential risks or consequences,” according to Sabrina Sykes, a psychologist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
Couple this with the app’s infamous eyeball-seeking algorithm, and you’ve got the ideal environment for these feckless feats to flourish.
Without further ado, here are the best and worst TikTok trends of 2021.
The Milk Crate Challenge
Thought TikTok had reached the summit of stupidity? Enter the Milk Crate Challenge, a painful pastime in which social media bozos attempt to traverse a pyramid of precariously stacked milk crates — generally with disastrous results.
Allegedly first showcased on Facebook by Kenneth Waddell in August, the spine-snapping challenge quickly took TikTok by storm with clout-seeking chuckleheads sharing videos of their most wince-worthy wipeouts.
Even Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster took an ill-advised stab at the challenge ahead of the team’s opening game in September. Thankfully, he was able to scale the milk crate Matterhorn without suffering any injuries.
Nonetheless, TMCC sparked such an uproar in the medical community that TikTok vowed to remove any videos showcasing the foolhardy feat. But hey, no use crying over spilled Milk Crate clips.
The Magnet Challenge
If the milk crate challenge prompts question marks, the magnet challenge causes a “semi-colon.” On the surface, this magnet for disaster seemed innocent enough: young kids feigning tongue piercings on camera by placing round magnetic balls on the tops and bottoms of their lollipop lickers.
However, it quickly proved to be anything but after an 11-year-old UK participant named Ellis Tripp had to have multiple magnets extracted from his stomach — resulting in several inches of his bowel being removed. The hospital revealed that Tripp was the fifth kid they’d admitted for the same condition that week.
In a dire case in March, doctors were forced to remove the appendix, small intestine, and part of the large intestine from a 9-year-old UK boy who had ingested six magnets during the challenge.
The Watermelon Mustard Challenge
What would TikTok be without some gag-inducing food combo? This year’s freaky Frankenfusion involved eating a watermelon slice slathered in French’s mustard, which user @yayayayummy described as the perfect marriage between sweet and vinegary.
Many epicureans disagreed with famous flutist Lizzo ripping the off-putting pairing in a clip with over 6 million likes.
The Dry Scooping challenge
Despite being labelled 18-plus, pre-workout protein powder has become a popular fad among teen gym junkies. A particularly dangerous method of ingestion is dry-scooping a k a eating the muscle mix without water — a trend that’s racked up millions of views on TikTok.
Doctors have since cautioned against this practice, which they say can lead to choking, accidental inhalation, over-consumption, injury and death. One 20-year-old influencer even suffered a heart attack this past summer after mainlining some of the undiluted supplement.
The Blackout Challenge
The blackout challenge — in which a participant holds their breath until they pass out — predates social media. However it has experienced a dismaying second coming on TikTok as young users amass millions of views by performing this asphyxiation-inducing stunt on camera.
The activity has resulted in multiple fatalities, with the latest tragedy occurring this past December, when 10-year-old participant Nyla Anderson was pronounced dead after being found unconscious in her Pennsylvania home.
Tiktok is currently purging “Blackout” challenge videos in an effort to combat the trend.
“We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found,” a TikTok spokesperson told The Post.
Apparently people can be harmed by the app even without participating in its feats of stupidity. Doctors worldwide are warning of a frightening phenomenon in which young girls are reportedly exhibiting tic-like symptoms — which they’ve attributed to them parroting popular influencers with Tourette syndrome as well as pandemic stress.
The Bathroom Challenge/Slap A Teacher Challenge
While some TikTok trends fostered self-harm, others encouraged hurting others, like a teeny bopper version of Project Mayhem in “Fight Club.” Case in point: the bathroom challenge, in which US high school students were dared to steal and destroy school property, usually in restrooms, and document their acts of vandalism on social media.
Also dubbed “the devious lick challenge,” the destructive stunt has resulted in the damage and theft of everything from soap dispensers to toilet stalls. “Someone tried to unbolt a urinal,” said Max Orston, a student at Riverwood High School in Georgia.
The chaotic stunt prompted desperate school administrators across the nation to shutter bathrooms in an effort to mitigate the damage.
An abhorrent offshoot of bathroom challenge, the slap a teacher challenge, reportedly dared students to — you guessed it — film themselves assaulting educators and post the videos to social media.
Faculty at various schools began warning of the perverse pastime in September. However it didn’t materialize until the following month, when a Louisiana High School student named Larrianna Jackson was arrested and charged with the felony battery of her 64-year-old wheelchair-bound English teacher. Investigators seized the cellphones of students who recorded the attack, but not before the clip had been disseminated across social media.
While police initially blamed the assault on the alleged TikTok challenge, the platform denied ever promoting the slap-happy stunt.
“The rumored ‘slap a teacher’ dare is an insult to educators everywhere,” they tweeted following the incident. “And while this is not a trend on TikTok, if at any point it shows up, content will be removed.”
The Shoot Up Your School Challenge
The crown jewel of sordid school dares occurred earlier in December, when an anonymous Toker announced that multiple school shootings would go down on Friday, Dec. 17.
This prompted schools across the nation to beef up their security, and send letters to parents, in anticipation of the so-called “Shoot Up Your School” challenge. Thankfully, the gun violence never went down, and authorities have since deemed the threat to be all Tok.
“Law enforcement agencies have investigated this threat and determined that it originated in Arizona and is not credible,” the official Baltimore County Public Schools Twitter account tweeted Dec. 16.
Nonetheless, the hoax proved particularly frightening as it occurred less than a month after 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly opened fire at Oxford High School, killing four people and injuring seven.
Thankfully, not all 2021 TikTok fads made viewers want to tear their hair out. On a more high-brow note, doctors have been increasingly posting quirky science content in an effort to educate youngsters about medicine.
And while physicians uploading TikTok clips nothing new, its popularity spiked in June when Detroit plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn ripped medical experts for dismissing breast implant illness.
The TikTok doc, who boasts 7.4 million TikTok followers, has since posted viral videos on everything from penis length to the hazards of sleeping in the nude. In one bizarre clip with millions of views, Dr. Youn bit both breast and butt implants to see which was more durable.
Youn isn’t the only medical practitioner taking TikTok by storm. The UK’s Dr. Karan Rajan has amassed over 4 million followers for a series of wacky medical explainers, which include a special shortcut for gauging penis proportions, the benefit of having a big butt, and the importance of never passing on passing gas.
As national resignation rates hit historic highs amid the pandemic — in a trend dubbed the “great resignation” — Generation Z “unemployees” flocked to social media to celebrate quitting their gigs.
The Zoomers’ occupational adieus garnered wide praise online, while the hashtag #iquitmyjob amassed nearly 200 million views on TikTok.
Reasons for their resignations ranged from bad management to a need to focus on their psychological well-being. In one video, user @kileerainbow wrote how she decided to quit her gig after realizing the “job isn’t worth my mental health no matter how well it pays & how loyal I am.”
Stripper vids might sound like yet another sleazeball trend circulating on TikTok. But sex workers increasingly took to the video-sharing platform to shed light on their oft-stigmatized profession.
In the stereotype-shattering phenomenon, dubbed “StripTok,” exotic dancers tackled topics ranging from picking the perfect stage name to explaining the nature of their gig to her kid. They also stripped away the misconceptions that exotic dancers are bad parents or always come from broken homes.
“I think that when myself and other StripTokers put ourselves out there, it’s opening a way for a lot of other sex workers and dancers who might not have normally come out and come forth about being a dancer because of fear of judgment,” skinfluencer Sky Hopscotch explained.
It’s yet unclear if Goblincore was among the year’s best or worst trends, but the phenomenon certainly captured the TikTok zeitgeist. The hashtag racked up hundreds of millions of shares as folklore fans flooded the platform with videos celebrating these elfin-eared fantasy baddies.
Content ranged from cosplay, contouring tips for the green-skinned, coven dances and other goblin-related pursuits such as an online Renaissance Fair.
In one Bigfoot-evoking clip, a Goblincore adherent “encounters” one of these sapphire-skinned Orclings nibbling on a plant in their garden.