The meme-ification of Bird Box may have finally gone too far.
Netflix’s apocalyptic thriller finds Sandra Bullock and a ragtag group of survivors attempting to ward off impending doom by wearing blindfolds nearly all the time. (What does the ridge at the top of Bullock’s nose look like in this film? I could scarcely say with any accuracy.) The streaming service dropped Bird Box on December 13, only to find users happily doing their marketing work for them: Spreading blindfold-related memes throughout all corners of the internet. Fun stuff! The this-is-why-we-can’t-have-nice-things moment arrived, however, when fans began to post videos of themselves trying to do ordinary tasks while blindfolded.
While the worst that could happen in most cases is that the person attempting to traverse the world blindfolded will end up with a stubbed toe and a greater appreciation for visually impaired people, there’s an obvious danger involved. The attention economy tends to reward people for more outlandish behavior, and a competitive drive to be the one with the most outlandish behavior could lead some to attempt to ford a river Sandy Bullock-style, or worse.
Netflix appears to be aware of this problem, but the company’s tweet urging fans not to attempt the challenge was too cute by half. If anything, it reads like a winking request for more people to attempt a Bird Box simulation.
Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 2, 2019
In early 2018, YouTube stepped in and removed “Tide Pod Challenge” videos to discourage the curious from participating in the extremely dangerous, misguided phenomenon. So far, however, YouTube appears to only be removing “Bird Box Challenge” videos in which blindfolded parents lead blindfolded children around. (An awful and now defunct video, in which a blindfolded toddler smacks into a wall, was still playing as recently as Thursday afternoon.) YouTube appears to have some internal calculus by which they determine what constitutes a dangerous environment for a Bird Box Challenge challenge, and are flagging and removing on a case-by-case basis.
Fast Company has reached out to YouTube for comment on whether the company will consider removing more “Bird Box Challenge” videos, and we will update further with their response.
UPDATE: Here’s a statement from a YouTube spokesperson: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines have long prohibited content intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. Our policies are especially strict when it comes to content featuring minors and we work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate these policies.”