Viral ‘Trashtag Challenge’ encourages people to clean up litter

Viral ‘Trashtag Challenge’ encourages people to clean up litter

By: Christopher Rim

Forget eating Tide Pods or jumping out of a moving car to dance to Drake—the latest viral ‘challenge’ on social media is a lot more wholesome, and a lot better for the world.

Over the weekend, the #trashtag challenge went trending, encouraging young people to compete to fill as many trash bags as possible with litter. From hikers to beachgoers to people taking to the streets, internet users across the world shared before and after photos of areas they’d cleaned up, or proud selfies holding the stinky, bagged fruits of their labors.

Similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which ended up raising over $100 million for ALS research, the #trashtag challenge is a refreshingly wholesome example of viral internet trends.

One of the best parts of this challenge, in my opinion, is that it’s not just highlighting people who set out to participate once the hashtag was trending. In fact, many of the popular #trashtag posts highlight people like this hiker, this beach team, and this poster’s fiancé who have been unwittingly participating in the challenge for years, without thinking they’d go viral—and those people are demonstrating a key personality trait that’s vital to success.

Current personality psychologists have consensus has divided a person’s general personality into the “Big Five” personality traits—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extra/introversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. This is also known as the OCEAN model or the five-factor model.

A lot of emphasis is placed on introversion and extraversion — you’ve probably taken an online quiz or generally have a sense of where you place on that spectrum and maybe have opinions about which is better. There’s also a fair amount of study and public discourse about openness to experience, especially because of how that personality trait seems to be aligned with liberal political views and involvement in politics, and neuroticism as it relates to anxiety, depression and substance use disorders. However, less has been said about the impact of a character trait that education experts are beginning to see as crucial to success: conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness is basically the drive to try one’s hardest regardless of potential reward. It’s closely related to personality traits like grit, perseverance, organization, diligence and dependability.

In How Children Succeed, journalist Paul Tough spoke with Professor Brent Roberts and characterized his research as indicating that “people high in conscientiousness get better grades in high school in college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer.

They live longer—and not just because they smoke and drink less…It really goes cradle to grave in terms of how well people do.” So it’s not clear if the average person participating in the #trashtag challenge is more conscientious than average. But for those who have been picking up trash for years without expecting recognition on social media or volunteer hours, who are just excited to hopefully get others on board with making the world a better place—those people are going places- Forbes

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