Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Why is Oreo defacing books? The bookmark challenge is just plain gross

Social media 'challenges' have now officially jumped the shark

Oreo cookies shared this photo with their 853,000 Twitter followers. Twitter / Oreo 
Oreo cookies shared this photo with their 853,000 Twitter followers. Twitter / Oreo 

Social media can be a wily, unpredictable beast, but there is one thing that's certain. It's a place that loves a challenge.

Many challenges are used for good (the ice bucket challenge raised more than $100 million for ALS research), while some turn out to be dangerous (snorting cinnamon is not a good idea). But no challenge has been quite as nonsensical as the 'bookmark challenge', for which brands have poured drinks and smashed food over books.

Why? Well, I simply don't know, but it certainly reeks of bandwagon jumping (and some marketing manager saying, 'there's a trending hashtag, ride the wave!').

It's hard to trace back the exact inception of the bookmark challenge, however I imagine it began innocently enough with a cute pet picture similar to this (which is clearly tongue in cheek, and not offensive at all):

But the brands's attempt to commercialise the trend meant it devolved, real fast.

Why do I find this so offensive, I wonder?

Social media can be a great place: this morning I got to see a video of my three-year-old nephew pretending to be a DJ. He lives on the other side of the world. I miss him. The video made me happy.

But, social media can also be full of idiocy, and it can be particularly embarrassing when brands try to get involved. We're smart, sell to us directly, don't deface our books in a desperate attempt to go 'viral'.

Why does Vitamin Water being poured on a book I can't actually identify trigger me quite so much? Maybe because it encapsulates waste. Maybe because it reeks of brands trying to 'make fetch happen' in order to make us buy their FMCGs.

Or maybe it's, simply, because I love books so much. For me, books are sacred. They are things I treasure, keep, share, talk about, and certainly don't throw milk all over.

Reading a book is a privilege, a window into another world: many people around the world don't have access to books. Wasting water and food by ruining them feels like a double slap in the face.

Oreo tweeted this after sharing the photo of milk being poured over a book:

But that's just blatantly untrue, isn't it? If someone borrowed a book of mine, and then poured milk all over it, intentionally (which would then give off a putrid smell), I'd seriously re-consider my friendship with them.

Maybe the bookmark challenge is a Trojan horse for something else, and we're soon to find out it is actually about something very worthy, but then why not just lead with the good stuff?

A quick whip around The National office confirmed that my reaction was, at least in this workplace, universal, and that I wasn't just being an overt joy kill.

The responses were unanimous: "it's horrible", "I'm absolutely appalled, because I can't bear for any book to be defaced", "ew, gross", etc.

As publishing company Random House wrote on Twitter: "This is the worst social media challenge in history and we demand that all of you stop it AT ONCE. Books are precious objects that deserve our respect.

"Now go sit in the corner and think about what you've done in the name of 'content'."

Hear, hear.

Updated: September 15, 2019 05:21 PM

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