A viral joke about a fake TikTok trend called 'hellmaxxing' riffs on parents blaming the app for dangerous social media challenges

A viral joke about a fake TikTok trend called 'hellmaxxing' riffs on parents blaming the app for dangerous social media challenges
·3 min read
An iPhone displaying the TikTok logo. The background is made up of large TikTok logos.
A joke tweet about a fake TikTok trend called "hellmaxxing" went viral. Daniel Constante/Shutterstock
  • A joke tweet about a fake TikTok challenge called "hellmaxxing" went viral.

  • The fake trend involves teens committing "so many sins even the devil won't have them."

  • While "hellmaxxing" isn't real, the joke riffs on a societal fear over alleged TikTok challenges.

On Monday, a joke tweet about a fake TikTok trend called "hellmaxxing" went viral on Twitter. "Hellmaxxing" is not real, itself isn't real, the parental fear and TikTok fearmongering that it's riffing on is.

The tweet that appears to have originated the joke, posted by Twitter user @wormwood_stars, currently has over 26,000 likes. It includes a fabricated image of a fake article from In The Know, which regularly covers TikTok trends and news.

Still, some media outlets are covering "hellmaxxing" by aggregating the information contained within the tweet - without clarifying that the article excerpt is fake.

"Parents have been warned about a new TikTok trend known as 'hellmaxxing,'" the fake article's headline reads.

The paragraph below describes "hellmaxxing" as a new "problematic" trend that "has police and clergy concerned." Teens taking part in the trend, according to the fake story, "commit 'so many sins even the devil won't have them.'"

As The Verge senior reporter Adi Robertson tweeted, the fake story appears to be directly spoofing a September 15 In The Know article about "beaning," a TikTok trend that involved pouring beans onto someone's doorstep.

"Well i never," @wormwood_stars, the original poster, captioned the image. The user did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Urban Dictionary's definition of the term, contributed by a user in August, describes "hellmaxxing" as "obtaining a one-way ticket to hell by doing something incredibly bad, evil, or shameful." The term doesn't appear to be in wide circulation online.

To be clear, "hellmaxxing" is not a real trend. Even though Bensalem, Pennsylvania, the town mentioned in the fake story, exists, its police department has not issued any public warnings about "hellmaxxing" on any of its public social media channels. Police Chief Fred Harran confirmed to Insider that the Bensalem Police Department was not aware of a trend called "hellmaxxing" and had not issued any warnings about it.

The hashtag #hellmaxxing doesn't appear to be in use on TikTok, though the fake In The Know article says the hashtag has 1.1 million views.

The "hellmaxxing" tweet plays off of a very real history of fear over TikTok's influence on young people. In recent weeks, there's been an influx of news and social media panic over alleged TikTok challenges.

The "devious licks" challenge, which went viral on TikTok in September, saw students claiming that they had made thefts ("licks") from their schools, taking a particular interest in bathroom supplies. As schools begged students not to participate, TikTok told Insider that the challenge violated its community guidelines, and began to redirect related searches and hashtags.

There have also been numerous popular TikTok challenges that have harmed children, like the milk crate challenge that went viral over the summer. But rumors of nonexistent challenges spread online in the wake of "devious licks."

Word of a "slap a teacher" challenge hypothetically originating on TikTok spread nationwide in October, despite no evidence of the challenge. TikTok released a statement saying that while videos showing students slapping teachers would violate its community guidelines, it hadn't found related content on the platform.

In the past, alleged dangerous challenges related to asphyxiation, magnets, or Benadryl, have also been attributed to TikTok, despite the fact that they've existed online for years. These kinds of challenges have been attributed to other platforms like YouTube or Facebook in the past as well.

"Hellmaxxing," while falling into this pattern, also plays into the ripples of the satanic panic of the 80s and 90s as well as previous social media hoaxes like the "Momo challenge," which led parents to fear that a monster image online was encouraging their kids to die by suicide.

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