A4 waist: viral challenges are far from over

Pictures, videos and challenges that go viral online can be humorous and entertaining but some more often they can just be asinine and dangerous. The latest of these trends to sweep the internet is the #A4Waist challenge.

This task, which has gone viral in China, involves people holding up a vertical A4 sheet of paper against their stomachs to show how thin their waists are. They take a photo of this and upload it onto a Chinese social media site called Weibo.

This idea that waists should be smaller than 21cm is not only unrealistic, it is unhealthy. There is already enough pressure on young people to be “paper thin” without it being literal, and a lot of this pressure comes from the internet.

Social media is known to have a negative impact on the mental health of young people. Teenagers and young adults are so impressionable and the nature of the internet means that there is no limit to what can be discovered online.

Between this bizarre body shaming and cyberbullying, it’s impossible for young people to escape the idea that being extremely thin is a necessity. The images being posted are so powerful that young, vulnerable minds can be manipulated into thinking that this is how they should look.

China is becoming infamous for its controversial memes and trends. The belly button challenge involved girls wrapping an arm around their back to see if they could touch their belly button. Photos of people with their arms folded around their waists went viral on Weibo.

After that came the collarbone challenge, which saw people posting images of themselves balancing a row of coins on their collarbones. The idea is that the more coins you can hold, the skinnier you appear to be.

But China isn’t solely to blame for these idiotic trends. Two years ago, the neknomination fad took off on social media here.

For those who don’t recall, neknomination was an online drinking game that saw people “necking” an alcoholic drink and “nominating” their friends to do the same thing. This was recorded and the videos were uploaded to Facebook.

As stupid as this trend was, neknominations did not stop until they were taken too far. At least five Irish and British people under the age of 30 died after taking part in the challenge.

The #A4Waist challenge received a lot of backlash and many people have posted and tweeted about the ridiculousness of it. Images appeared of people holding college degrees to their stomachs to show that there is much more to life than just having a skinny waist.

It is unlikely that we’ve seen the last of the foolish online crazes and there will probably be more body shaming and senselessness to come.

Aoibheann Diver

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