Photo: “Cinnamon Challenge + Pepper Spray” via YouTube
Internet memes seem like harmless wastes of cyberspace and people’s time–both those who perform them and those who view them–but some can be surprisingly dangerous. Like the cinnamon challenge, in which a dumbass chokes down a spoonful of tasty cinnamon and then turns into a cloudy, coughing mess. It makes for sweet GIFs, but doctors have just warned that it causes serious respiratory problems.
It’s not the only meme that has caused serious medical (or legal) problems for people who’ll do anything for 15 minutes of Reddit fame. Here are other instances of memes maiming.
1. Flash Mobs
At first, these publicly organized dance-offs were just a fun way of annoying bystanders and mall shoppers. Then they suddenly took a weird, violent turn. One of the worst happened earlier this month in Chicago when hundreds of teenagers took control of the city’s downtown area. The massive gathering turned into a full-blown riot that ended with a number of assaults and several arrests. The only upside to the incident is that it could inspire the most kick-ass episode of “Glee” ever.
Numerous people have injured themselves (and worse) while trying to defeat gravity. Eight Woolworth’s employees in Australia even lost their jobs after planking in their former place of employment. One of them got the brilliant idea to plank himself on top of a meat grinder…which could’ve led to a more painful injury than we want to fathom.
3. The Salt and Ice Challenge
Any beer cooler aficionado knows that pouring salt into a tub of ice is a quick and efficient way to chill a canned beer, but rubbing the two together on your skin can produce burns akin to frostbite. A 12-year-old boy in Pittsburgh learned that lesson the hard way when his friends burned a giant cross into his back, which left deep, blistering scars that lasted for almost three full months. And he couldn’t even numb the pain with beer.
4. The Harlem Shake
This annoying dance craze (which also makes for sweet GIFs) caused serious problems for one unlucky high school hockey team, which had a chance to go to the playoffs earlier this year…but forfeited it after officials saw their “Harlem Shake” video, which included one player wearing nothing but a ski-mask and a sock in a strategic area.
Tricking friends into seeing “shock sites” will always be a meme as long as there’s weird internet pornography. But you probably shouldn’t trick your entire college campus this way, like the Florida State University student who allegedly hacked into the Wifi system to direct everyone toward the Internet’s most infamous twirling meat site. Meatspin has since been shut down, thankfully, and the student recently faced felony charges.
Even the move created by Jesus’ favorite quarterback has been at the scene of the crime. A Pennsylvania man, who allegedly assaulted a teenager and fled, celebrated by Tebowing–or “got onto his knee in what appeared to be a prayer,” according to police. Judging from his mugshot, we’re assuming it’s because he was quite winded.