Viral trends come and go quickly on social media. Their shelf lives are short because most lack the staying power to keep a goal, dream or idea alive. Planking, the Mannequin Challenge, and the Harlem Shake are a few that come to mind, but sadly each fizzled out to be replaced by a new flavor of the week. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took off in 2014 and is another viral sensation that was hugely popular and successful. It helped raise awareness and donations to support the ALS community, with more than 17 million people uploading their challenge videos to Facebook.
The latest trend breaking the internet is the Trashtag Challenge, which first hit Facebook in early March and has spread like wildfire over the past month. The original post is below. The challenge is captivating people all over the world and inspiring the masses to clean up their communities and share photos of cleanup efforts across social media.
While other online trends lose steam in a few weeks or months, the Trashtag Challenge is still going strong with no signs of slowing. I see daily high traffic posts on Reddit showing people participating in the challenge. This post hit the front page a few days ago and has over 100,000 upvotes with a lot of discussion and engagement. It’s encouraging to see because the challenge is only a month in and social media is still buzzing about it. Attention spans are short online. If the cause is important enough, people will do all they can to keep it growing and thriving.
This social media movement is remarkably different from others we’ve seen in recent years. It involves a topic of universal importance. The environment and its long term health is a shared concern for all. Combine this with social media and there’s power in numbers to cause widespread changes in sentiment and behavior. If the challenge helps raise awareness and encourages people to get involved, that alone is a worthy accomplishment.
The success of this challenge is also tied to our personal needs to feel admired, appreciated and recognized on social media. People care about the environment, but they also don’t want to see their efforts go unnoticed. It feels good to share something positive that you’re doing, even something as small as collecting a few bags of trash in your neighborhood. One simple post created a ripple effect that has reached communities around the globe. It doesn’t matter what country you live in or what your beliefs are. This call to action is one we can all get behind.
Another important point is people sometimes don’t want to put in a ton of effort or make big commitments. We lead busy lives. It’s better to set low expectations and let people gauge their own involvement. If we can donate money online or share a post promoting a cause we support, that might be the extent of activism for most. The Trashtag Challenge is so incredibly easy and effortless to participate in. Anyone with a phone, internet connection and a little spare time can pick up trash near their home, school or workplace and share photos with a hashtag. Devote the time you want, when you want for any reason at all. As long as you’re involved it makes no difference.
The Trashtag Challenge has the potential to remain relevant on social media for years to come. It breaks the mold of your typical viral social media trend. There’s a strong desire to help the environment, people are motivated from seeing content shared by others and there’s an immediacy to this issue that is palpable. It’s been a continuous cycle of optimism and activism made possible by social networks and their unique ability to connect people and ideas on this beautiful planet we all share.