Some assurances at the outset. The Chinese belly button challenge is nothing like the dreaded Chinese water torture, which allegedly drove its victims insane. In contrast, the belly button challenge, which took Chinese social media by storm before trending worldwide, entails snapping a selfie as you attempt to reach behind your back and touch your belly button. The technique is illustrated in the tweet below — or would be if the young lady shown were taking her own picture.
— رنا (@ranwah1) June 12, 2015
I have tried it, and I’m here to tell you it’s tougher than it sounds — tougher even than chewing gum and walking.
I’m also hear to tell you that this utterly innocuous endeavor can be hazardous to your health. So we learn from health experts in consultation with ABC News.
The problem is not spraining your wrist or anything like that. The potential damage is to your psyche. Claire Mysko, program director of the National Eating Disorder Association, told the network:
Social media challenges like these can stoke comparison and body insecurity, especially for those struggling with disordered eating. We advocate for body positivity challenges, which are empowering and encourage self-expression, not self-criticism.
Pediatric psychologist Carolyn Ievers-Landis concurs:
It’s concerning people are using body differences to promote possibly unhealthy eating practices or ways in which people can compare themselves negatively to others, which has been linked to depressive symptoms. It’s one more indicator of ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘attractive enough,’ or ‘thin enough,’ and it’s harmful.
The notion of “challenges,” which the ABC piece treats as something daring and new (the authors mention the #KylieJennerLipChallenge and the #CharlieCharlieChallenge) actually dates back decades. One popular challenge of the 1950s was phonebooth stuffing, a fad that entailed seeing how many college students could be crammed into a phonebooth. Among the differences between then and now was the lack back then of hashtags (the era was pre- Twitter) or the difficulty nowadays of finding a public phonebooth. But the most important difference was “experts” to hold the hands of challenge takers. How did civilization ever survive without them?