The latest viral challenge to hit Facebook and other media is Neknomination, where individuals down an alcoholic drink in one go, and publicly challenge two friends by name to do the same. Sensationalist news accounts center on the legitimate danger for an incautious few, but the success of the device is far more interesting for the latent desires it reveals in the technologically empowered masses.
Children of this generation are always looking for a low cost way to contribute something of social value to their network, and to provide sustenance to fragile, long-distance friendships. It’s the same drive that has fueled the rise of content aggregators that churn out content fertile for sharing.
But unlike the millennial culture commodities out of the House of BuzzFeed, social media challenges get their sense of social relevance not because they are peppered with familiar cult references, but because their creators put real objects from viewers’ social networks in the starring roles for their 5 minutes of fame, and use a compelling mechanism to influence their friends to do the same.