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The invisible box challenge isn't as easy as it looks

And on Reddit, study shows 'newsworthy' posts are voted on by many who don't read content

It sounds silly at first, to step on an imaginary box on one leg and step over it with the other. But so was pouring ice on one's head, standing like a mannequin, eating cinnamon powder and planking.

The new online rage - dubbed the invisible box challenge - has been trending this past week after a successful attempt by a Texan high school cheerleader went viral.

Ariel Olivar's six-second video, posted on Dec 2, has been liked and retweeted more than 450,000 times. Her sudden fame earned her a spot on the American talk show The Today Show, where she executed the seemingly simple move that appears to defy gravity.

But it certainly isn't easy, as many people who tried it with the hashtag #InvisibleBoxChallenge have shown. Some Twitter users managed to pull off the challenge, but many others have failed.

A rash of articles have sprung up explaining how to accomplish the feat. For starters, one would need sufficient core strength and balance, as well as strong hips and gluteal muscles.

Physical trainers say that athletes have a distinct advantage thanks to the phenomenon known as proprioception, a subconscious awareness of where your body is in space. This ability helps them keep the first foot in place while the rest of the body moves.


Ariel Olivar's six-second video (left), posted on Dec 2, shows her stepping on an imaginary box on one leg and over it with the other - a move that appears to defy gravity. The viral video inspired people to try it with the hashtag #InvisibleBoxChallenge, although many have failed. PHOTOS: ARIEL OLIVAR, CHAMPS SPORTS

"I had no idea it would ever get this big," Olivar told various news outlets. "I am speechless."

While strange "challenges" surface on a regular basis, at least this one does not involve being a public nuisance or wasting water.

BEING A RESPONSIBLE REDDIT USER

Reddit is one of the most trafficked sites globally, with more than 234 million unique users every month.

Thousands of article links, videos and images are posted every minute and users see what is purportedly most newsworthy based on a voting system - users vote "up" for good content, and "down" for useless click-bait.

But it turns out that the system is far from accurate, going by a paper published by Notre Dame University.

Ms Wu Xiue dresses as fictional character Pigsy from the classic tale Journey To The West to raise money for her mentally ill husband and son. Ariel Olivar's six-second video (left), posted on Dec 2, shows her stepping on an imaginary box on one leg
Ms Wu Xiue dresses as fictional character Pigsy from the classic tale Journey To The West to raise money for her mentally ill husband and son. PHOTO: MIAOPAI

Researchers examined the behaviour of 309 site users over a one-year period, and found out a startling fact - some 73 per cent of posts on Reddit are voted on by users who did not click through the content being put up before being rated.

This means the ranking system is based on those forming opinions and taking action simply via the headline or accompanying thumbnail in the thread.

Most participants, the study says, are "headline browsers". More than nine in 10 interacted with the content in 60 per cent of their page loads. This behaviour has been attributed to cognitive fatigue, a sort of mental inertia to process information when there is a deluge of it.

This has startling implications.

For one thing, it shows that what's voted as the most valuable content in a crowd-sourced platform like Reddit is often a poor representation of the substance of the content.

Second, it is yet another indicator that an attention-grabbing headline is all you need to push through an agenda, which does little to help win the ongoing battle against fake news.

The antidote to this is simple.

If you are a Reddit user, do make an effort to read what's being touted before casting your lot in perpetuating a lie.

The end result is that you will not only be better informed, but fellow users also have a more accurate indication of what articles are well-sourced and legitimate.

JOURNEY TO RECOVERY

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • NIGAHIGA: YouTube personality Ryan Higa's latest humorous take on how to rack up views on the video platform is, ironically, trending. The American comedian's video was viewed more than three million times since it was uploaded on Dec 1.

    JAN INGENHOUSZ: The Dutch scientist who discovered photosynthesis in 1779 came up as the top Google search term last week as the Google Doodle for Dec 8 celebrates his 287th birthday.

    JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM: The much-awaited sequel to the 2015 science fiction thriller was released last week.

There is perhaps no greater love than what a mother has for a child.

The latest example of such selfless love comes from China's Suzhou province, where 58-year-old Wu Xiue dresses as fictional character Pigsy, also known as Zhu Bajie, from the classic tale Journey To The West.

Ms Wu poses for pictures with strangers in a bid to raise funds for medical treatment for her mentally ill husband and son, reported the BBC.

Videos of her - in character - slogging long hours to help her family have gone viral in China, racking up millions of views on various social media platforms.

Ms Wu says she is not able to afford the required medical care for her family, and had to resort to this sideline to make ends meet.

Suzhou workers make about $1,100 a month on average.

Ms Wu's medical insurance for her son - who has had schizophrenia since he was 11 and has to be institutionalised after violent outbreaks - amounts to up to $800.

On weekends, she says she makes about $40 a day.

Speaking to local media, she says: "There are times when I can't even make more than a few cents. I'm tired and in pain. I just want to use every breath to make my son better."

She says that she also hopes to make her son feel more optimistic about the disease by earning her keep through dressing up.

Social media users have called for Ms Wu to set up a crowdfunding campaign, and promised to donate generously to make her life easier.

Unfortunately, so far, due to Ms Wu's lack of tech-savviness, the page has yet to be set up.

That hasn't stopped offers to help from pouring forth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'The invisible box challenge isn't as easy as it looks'. Print Edition | Subscribe