A trending online challenge in Kenya has been decoded, from its originality, myths surrounding it and how it may harm individuals who play or associate with it, especially children.
Dubbed Charlie Charlie Charlie, the challenge has been shared on YouTube by a number of Kenyan youth and has also trended on Twitter globally.
The two pencil game involves crossing two pens or pencils to create a grid (with sectors labelled “yes” and “no”) and then asking questions to a “supernatural entity” named “Charlie.”
The upper pencil is then expected to rotate to indicate the answer to such questions. The first question everyone asks by speaking into the pencils is “can we play?” or “are you here?” or “are you there?.
The top pencil is precariously balanced on a central pivot point, meaning that it can easily rotate on the pivot due to slight wind gusts, or the breathing of players expecting the pencil to move.
Some players end up being shocked by the outcome and believe that the supernatural being exists, leading to hysteria (mental exhaustion). Others share scary posts to frighten their followers and individuals interested in playing it.
A video shared by Kenyan youth on Friday, January 8, showed them claiming that one of them had fainted. They advised others not to play the game.
An article by the Washington Post dated May 26, 2015, reported that the game has been in existence since 2008. However, it can be traced to have been played by school children ages ago. It picked up in 2015 with over 1.6 million tweeting about it.
Satirical websites then related it to mass deaths and suicides across the globe, forcing religious leaders to speak against it. They claimed that it was a way of summoning a deceased spirit.
BBC Mundo’s Maria Elena Naavez in an article dated May 26, 2015, added that “There’s no supernatural called ‘Charlie’ in Mexico (where it is claimed to have originated). Mexican legends often come from ancient Aztec and Maya history, or from the many beliefs that began circulating during the Spanish conquest,” she said.
Fact checks revealed that no physical harms were ever reported as alleged and that the game was harmless, only that it may affect those who want to believe in it. Psychologists added that it may derive fear, the quest for an unknown existence which may affect behaviour and thoughts. For example, an individual may start breathing heavily.
Donald Saucier, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, argues that teenagers go through “a period where social influence is powerful”, and they are more prone to superstition and magical thinking.
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke on Saturday, January 9, Nairobi based psychologist Faith Nashipae argued that spiritual leaders are better placed to address the challenge. However, she added that human beings have the nature to connect to a spiritual being from God to all other beings such as traditional gods.
Nashipae said that human beings are curious and that’s why they participate in social media games that claim to answer meanings to birthdays, names and Zodiac signs.
“Individuals should thus be cautious and should not jump into any challenge they see online. They should research backgrounds and read related stories. Some may be harmful or can taint one’s name. One should ask themselves why they would want to participate in anything before proceeding?” she warned.