Opinion: The ten year challenge is the epitome of social media culture

It is strange what can change in just ten years. 

In 2009, Barack Obama was being sworn in as the first African American president of the United States, the iPhone 3GS was about to come out and gay marriage was six years away from being legalized. 

But ten years has formed new generations and ideas, and in light of the so-called “selfie”-crazed age that we are living in, the new social media fad “10-year challenge," where people share photos of themselves from 2009 vs. 2019, seems to be the epitome of the power of diversity across platforms. 

Celebrities and the general public alike have been posting side-to-side pictures of themselves that show what they look like today vs. 10 years ago. However, this “challenge” has grown to encompass so much more than just a mediocre excuse to post a photo of yourself.

From politics to conspiracy theories to advertisements, the social media trend has come to act as a platform for societal commentary. As already known from popular Facebook feuds, there is always something for people to make a statement about — this trend included. Charities and television shows are capitalizing on it in forms of political satire and comedic relief in order to get their cause to seem more “#relatable” to the younger audiences that are so active on social media.

Environmentally conscious users have been spreading around a 10-year challenge photo that shows two different photos of a glacier: one fully standing and one almost completely melted. The caption reads, “the only ten years challenge you f---ing need to care about.” Posted by Instagram user @seedingsovereignty, this picture has circulated celebrity Instagram stories and re-posts in order to raise awareness for global warming.

Spreading awareness, however, is exactly the same thing that advertisements are claiming to do through this meme. The NBC sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," as a teaser for its newest episode, posted a picture of some of the older cast mates alongside their younger counterparts with the caption, “We see your #10yearchallenge and raise you the #33yearchallenge.” It not only perfectly works with a topical trend, but also created a personable photo set that makes viewers a bit more privy to the most recent episode.

Aside from politics and entertainment, this challenge continues to check off everything the internet is known for. Rumors of conspiracies and hidden messages started to plague the different platforms once Wired put out an article that claims the 10-year challenge “may or may not have been a data collection ruse to train its facial recognition algorithm,” sending social media users into a craze. 

When it comes down to it, the 10-year challenge is the absolute example of social media culture. Starting as a harmless meme, these photo sets have grown into comedic, political, satirical and controversial statements, and that's what social media is all about in the end: taking something way too far. 

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