The new viral "tip the bill" challenge could be one of the nicest things to ever come out of social media

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Whenever you eat out, tipping is a minefield. Some people prefer to be generous to their servers, whilst others would rather sit on their change like a mad, greedy dragon. The stark divide between factions became even more obvious earlier this month when one man’s ridiculously cruel tipping method - involving placing five one dollar bills on a table at the start of a meal and removing a bill every time a server “messes up” -  took Twitter by storm.

As often seems to be the case with social media, many people were not happy. But, despite the best efforts of the penny pinchers, there seems to be good news on the horizon. Sometimes social media and tipping can work together to do something good.

Over the past few weeks, Twitter and Facebook feeds have been slowly filling with blurry restaurant photos featuring the latest social media challenge. Referred to as “tip the bill”, it is astonishingly generous for something born on the back channels of the internet. All someone has to do to take part is pay 100% gratuity on any bill they receive in a restaurant. It certainly beats flashing around a five dollar tip.

Since it first sprung up at the start of August, tip the bill has appeared on cheques everywhere from Olive Garden to high end eateries, with some patrons offering well over $100 extra on top of what was charged for their food. For waiters in America, who are often among the most undervalued employees and can struggle to make ends meet without generous tipping, the new challenge is being seen as a major relief.

Many people within the industry have taken to the internet to express their excitement over their clients’ new found sense of generosity. Twitter user’s have all been expressing their amazement at the success of the hashtag and the public’s willingness to take part, sharing photos of their experiences and the tips that they have been receiving. As news spreads, more people seem to be getting on board. For now at least, it looks like “tip the bill” has some serious momentum.

However, despite the general sense of positivity, the campaign has not been free from criticism. For one thing, many people have been quick to point out some participants’ apparent interest in sharing photos of tips that they themselves have provided. Understandably, this self-congratulatory element is making a few people feel distinctly uncomfortable.

Equally, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the challenge is synonymous with a certain level of privilege. Many people, regardless of how generously they would like to tip, simply aren’t in a financial position to be able to take part. Seeing people smugly post pictures of how much money they’ve been able to give to serving staff understandably makes many people feel embarrassed.

That being said, there’s little doubt that “tip the bill’s” heart is in the right place. You just need to look at the reactions of restaurant workers who are, arguably for the first time, beginning to get some fair remuneration and representation to see just how much of a difference can be made by a small act of kindness. It seems unusual to say, but for once the internet might have actually done something positive.