The Vacuum Challenge Is Definitely Stupid. But Is It Dangerous?

Just because something is viral doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Originally Published: 
@swoonzi / @meatman80

It’s a day that ends in y, so there’s a new, dumb, viral internet trend. This one, known as the Vacuum Challenge, involves videos of people sitting with their legs close to their chest so they can fit into a plastic trash bag. The bags are sealed around the person’s body with the exception of an opening where the hose from a vacuum cleaner has been inserted. Once the switch is flipped, the vacuum cleaner sucks all of the air out of the bag.

This creates a vacuum inside the bag and the appearance of a skintight bodysuit outside. Once that happens, the people attempting the challenge tend to cackle with laughter due to what we can imagine is a really bizarre sensation. They also tend to promptly topple over once the vacuum is created.

It’s just as pointless and dumb as it sounds, but nevertheless, videos of the challenge are all over Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. Many are tagged with #binbagchallenge, what appears to be the British version of the American hashtag.

As with any social media-based “challenge,” this one should be judged not just on how dumb it is as a form of entertainment but how stupid you’d have to be to attempt it. The Harlem Shake challenge falls squarely on the more innocuous side of things, but stunts like the Kiki and Tide Pod challenges were obviously dangerous yet somehow irresistible to the thousands of people who attempted them.

What’s clear is that, despite the fact that the challenge doesn’t seem to harm most of the people who attempt it, it’s not risk-free. Vacuum-sealed plastic blocking an airway is obviously a suffocation risk, but the vacuum challenge can cause lasting bodily harm even if the bag is kept away from the nose and mouth. That’s why the myriad videos of people doing it to their kids are so infuriating.

So while it’s not quite as dumb as poisoning yourself on camera, there is not a universe in which the risks of the vacuum challenge are worth the rewards, particularly when people risk the safety of kids they’re supposed to be taking care of.

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