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Hellmaxxing Is Fake, But Our Response to It Is Hell on Earth

What level of hell is reserved for circular, pointless discourse about TikTok trends and whatever (fake) trouble the youths are up to?

Picture scrolling through your TikTok and seeing precious teens coveting their neighbor’s wives, telling lies, conjuring pestilence, dabbling in the occult and having impure thoughts. This is supposedly called “hellmaxxing,” and it was a much-discussed TikTok “trend” in which people tried to commit “so many sins that the devil won’t have them.”

When I first heard about hellmaxxing, I thought to myself, “Hell yeah.” As a God-lovin’ gal, it’s always been my belief that Jesus fought and died for my right to party — might as well make the most of his sacrifice and do some sinning! 

But, much to my disappointment, hellmaxxing isn’t real. 

On October 15th, a very fake screenshot of a very fake article, allegedly published on In The Know, stated that teens were participating in the trend, trying to sin as much as possible for the TikTok clout. Apparently, the “police and clergy” were “concerned.”

Pretty soon, it became clear that hellmaxxing was a hoax — no such article ever existed on In The Know. There’s not even evidence of people on TikTok pretending to hellmaxx as part of a joke. Instead, there’s just more circular discourse about how these falsified stories make their way around, and their ability to dupe our more gullible elders into thinking those rowdy youngs are straying from their godly paths. 

Yet as silly as the trend sounds, it also seems perfectly plausible. Earlier this fall, schools across the country were responding to numerous cases of theft from their students, each more outlandish than the last. It would start with a student documenting themselves stealing something innocuous, like their teacher’s half-consumed bottle of Diet Coke, and progress into the absurd — a la stealing infrastructure like soap dispensers and lighting fixtures. Some school districts have reported thousands of dollars in losses. The trend, which called these acts “devious licks,” was never about stealing something of value. Rather, it was purely about creating chaos by taking something meaningless. 

This itself feels in line with hellmaxxing — devious licks are a sin for sin’s sake. Frankly, it’s hilarious. But as with hellmaxxing, I can’t find any actual TikToks documenting the thefts. In this case, though, it’s because it was such an actual problem that TikTok banned the search term entirely. That’s how you know hellmaxxing truly isn’t real. If it were, the search result would come up blank. Instead, it’s people talking about how dumb others are for believing it could be real; TikToks with 20 likes of people using filters that turn them into a demon; and one clip of someone throwing a bag of tortillas on the ground. 

But in a sense, this all could be hellmaxxing in itself. Maybe hell isn’t a place of bold wickedness, it’s a place of mundanity. Here we are, arguing over something that’s not real, all of us fully aware of that fact, yet still breathlessly giving it our time and attention. It’s just a self-feeding cycle of meaningless dialogue. If teens committing sins doesn’t bring about hell on Earth, the banality of how we treat these fake stories will.