There's an ostensible TikTok trend in which young men claim that they're hitting themselves in the face with hammers in attempts to look more masculine — but keep reading, because the situation is even weirder than it sounds.
Here's what we know for sure. In recent weeks, videos, screenshots, and articles about the alleged trend, called "bonesmashing" or "bone mashing," have sprung up on TikTok and the social network formerly known as Twitter.
Needless to say, smashing yourself in the face with a hammer is not a good idea, and is extremely unlikely to make you look better.
"This is dumb, unsafe, and there is no evidence that this even works," wrote ER doctor Josh Trebach. "Please do not hit yourself in the face with a hammer."
We should also point out that there's no evidence the deranged-sounding trend is actually happening, with the current hashtag on TikTok being populated primarily with satire or warnings against the purported practice. Unsurprisingly, context-less articles fearmongering about the "trend" have begun striking much the same tenor as the FDA's warning to not douse chicken in Nyquil back when that TikTok hoax was making headlines. Or, heck remember the equally thin-sourced Tide Pod Challenge?
And there's always the Slender Man Effect, in which something that's initially a hoax can lead to so much hype, information, and media coverage that people end up actually doing the thing, so medical professionals are understandably concerned that young guys might end up taking hammers to their faces in a misguided attempt to break or fracture their bones to achieve an ideal facial structure.
The moronic idea is based on what's known as "Wolff's Law," which references 19th-century German doctor and surgeon Julius Wolff, who asserted that bones become stronger in response to stress. While he was partially correct — the bones of weightlifters do, for instance, become denser and the bones of astronauts do thin out — people have long misinterpreted Wolff's Law to mean that broken bones will grow back stronger, which doctors say is absolutely not the case.
What sets the so-called bonesmashing trend aside from other probable TikTok hoaxes is the dark worldview underlying it. Yes, we're talking about the incels.
A small subsection of TikTok posts under the #bonesmashing hashtag seem to have been posted by proponents of "looksmaxxing," a whacked-out incel subculture that suggests men can benefit sexually or socially if they change their looks to appear more masculine.
As Know Your Meme explains, bonesmashing and looksmaxxing both date back to at least 2018, when men would take to forums to brutally criticize each other to spur self-improvement. That year, Vice took a deep dive into Lookism.net (now known as Looksmaxx.org) and offered a glimpse into the deep dysmorphia at the heart of incel culture that in many ways resembles the pro-anorexia blogs of yore.
As one user of the site formerly known as Twitter aptly explained in meme format, the increasing popularity of the almost-certainly-fake bonesmashing "trend" is unsettling less because people are claiming that they're smashing their faces with hammers and more because it operates as a dogwhistle for incel culture. What's worse: it likely also, as the meme points out, is tied in with the kind of pop race science and phrenology that's currently in vogue with some intellectual dark web types.
Bonesmashing may not be a real thing, in other words, but the prospect alone is enough to put doctors on edge — and even if it is yet another TikTok hoax trend, the racist incel mentality behind it is very real and very dangerous.
More on toxic trends: Shell Using Fortnite to Promote Gasoline to Youths
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