Those dang Gen Z’ers are chasing clout again. From the same warped teens who brought you the Tide Pod Challenge, the Bird Box Challenge, and a whole host of other self-destructive viral stunts comes the latest social media trend: the “shell on challenge.” 

If you’re a reasonable person with a 401k, you might be wondering: what exactly is the shell on challenge? Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with the aggressive consumption of shellfish. Instead, the shell on challenge asks its acolytes to consume any manner of foods ensconced in some sort of literal or metaphorical protective “shell” to be eaten as is. 

Based on recent clips posted to Snapchat and other social media platforms, that can mean anything from taking a big bite of an unpeeled banana or lemon, chomping on a watermelon rind-first, eating snacks in their packaging, or munching on baby carrots or sandwiches brought to school for lunch while still in their Ziploc bags.

#shellonchallenge #bananapeelsaregross

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As is always the case with these sorts of things, the arrival of the trend was heralded by local news stories that conflate a handful of social media posts by bored teens with some sort of public health crisis. Medical professionals seem concerned that youths are taking a bite out of potentially pesticide-laden “shells” of fruits without first washing them or, you know, removing them.

Plastic and other manmade shells can pose a more serious threat. “The risk of breathing that in and choking is the biggest thing to me,” Dr. Danelle Stabel told WXYZ-TV in Detroit. “Again, it’s just not meant to be digested depending on how big of a bite they take.”

As is so often the case with viral challenges, the concern is valid but perhaps overblown. None of these clips are built around anyone finishing an entire unpeeled banana, or devouring an entire cardboard box of Cheez-Its. At this point, maybe the teens are just trolling the Boomers who so often see these challenges as evidence that today’s young people don’t deserve to live in a stable economy. If that’s the case, well done. Either way,  just don’t swallow any plastic. 

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