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What is the iPhone Sharpie Shock Challenge? Explained

A lot of “challenge” videos go viral in the internet today. The internet is full of videos of people trying different scenarios and other quirky ideas tried by the younger generation. They record what they are doing, upload it on social media, and boom, the “challenge” becomes a trend. Everybody becomes engross in trying these different “challenge” videos. One example is the “iPhone Sharpie Shock Challenge”.

What is the iPhone Sharpie Shock Challenge? Is it safe to be done? How does it work? What is the science explanation behind this challenge? All these questions will be answered below.

How to do the iPhone Sharpie Shock Challenge?

In order to perform the Sharpie Shock Challenge, you will do the following:

  • Get a Sharpie to draw and eventually fill-in a black rectangle on your or the other person’s skin
  • Position your iPhone flash module against the rectangle that you have drawn
  • Take an image of the rectangle using your iPhone with the flash turned on
  • If done properly, you or the other person (whoever did the challenge) will feel the “Sharpie shock”

According to those who have done the challenge, the reaction or the intensity of the shock varies among those who have attempted to perform the challenge. The effect ranges from a burning sensation to an actual “shock” that could be felt.

What is the Reason why do People Shock Themselves?

Now, you may ask why do people, especially children choose to “shock” themselves?

The reason is because it is the trend! The Sharpie Shock challenge became prevalent on social media. A lot of people became intrigued and curios of this challenge. Probably, a lot of the people who performed this challenge are seeking sensation – that is a lot of them are hoping to answer their curiosity. People would like to know how does the “shock” felt, is it doable, etc. People are willing to take risks (even inflicting pain on oneself) to satisfy their curiosities.

Another reason and a simpler one, is that – kids do it for fun. They are probably simply bored. According to several studies, our brain is wired that whenever we experience boredom, people find ways or things to do to fight boredom even if it means inflicting pain on oneself. It means doing something that hurt yourself rather than be bored.

Science Explaining the Sharpie Shock Challenge

The truth is, despite the name of the challenge – there is no actual “shock” going on. The science behind is that it is just a transfer of what we call heat energy from the iPhone’s flash to the challenger’s skin. The smartphone’s flashes are designed to produce, in a split second – a lot of energy. This results to the transfer of the energy from the smartphone’s flash to the skin as heat which can be felt as “shock”. This happens if the challenge actually works.

How does the Sharpie work? The color black is preferred because it absorbs more light than other hues. This explains why a black rectangular box drawn on the skin will absorb more of the flash’s energy than the skin or any other color drawn on the skin normally would absorb.

There is an ongoing discussion on whether people with darker skin pigment/hues will even need a back-colored Sharpie to feel the “shock”. Similarly, there is an account of a person who achieved the Sharpie Shock Challenge using lighter-colored ink of Sharpie.

While there are no proven answers on that issue yet, it is still necessary to consider that the black ink of the Sharpie has a darker or more concentrated pigment/hue than the skin of a person with a dark skin pigment. That’s why it is important to note that the black-colored Sharpie is still preferred to use in the Sharpie Shock Challenge to feel the “shock”.

So, Does the Sharpie Shock Challenge Actually Work?

Based on the Snopes’ testing of the Sharpie Shock Challenge, the results were mixed. Of course, there are also a lot of videos online that shows wherein the Sharpie Shock Challenge doesn’t work – that is the challenger doesn’t feel anything similar to a shock.

There is some evidence and some science that says that most of the challenge videos that we see online are well – exaggerated. Take note what we call the “nocebo effect”. Nocebo effect is similar to placebo effect. The challenger’s brain plays a trick on the him/her. In nocebo effect, the challenger expects/anticipates that he/she can really feel the “shock” – making the challenger feel the effect more than he/she normally would.

Is the Sharpie Shock Challenge Dangerous or Safe?

The Sharpie Shock Challenge is not dangerous. Even the most exaggerated videos online don’t show any prolonged damage.

In conclusion, performing the Sharpie Shock Challenge is still not recommended.

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