Who needs a regular pint when you can have a dead chicken, fresh puke or someone else’s crap?
If you haven’t been in a self-induced social media blackout for the last few weeks you may well have noticed a few videos popping up on your Facebook homepage. The binge-drinking craze that goes by the name #Neknomination has been saturating social media recently with its footage of people downing large amounts alcohol, often laced with suspicious looking items, of which we’ll talk more later.
The craze, which is said to have started in the UK but has grown increasingly popular in Australia, has spread like wildfire over the past couple of weeks, with Facebook helping to fan the flames of its popularity. It has lead to people of all ages posting videos of themselves knocking back a drink of their choosing – although it’s often a mix of potent spirits rather than orange juice – dressed in peculiar clothing and in increasingly strange surroundings.
What the fuck? I hear you spluttering into your smartphone. People are posting videos of themselves downing rank drinks, and this shit is spreading? Yep, you got it. It’s not only spreading, but essentially taking over social media like some sort of out of control, mutating zombie-disease, forcing people to do things that they had every intention of making sure they never did. And the ‘challenge’ is not just getting taken up by bored students and kids looking for kicks, but fully grown men who should know better.
What are the rules then? Well It’s all pretty simple really. You will be sitting around in your underpants, when you receive a notification. Mostly via Facebook, this will come from a friend who has just downed an indeterminate drink, a video clip that you will watch with a mixture of mockery and dread. At the end, said friend will then nominate a couple of people to film themselves doing the same before they nominate another two and so on and so forth. Before you know it you are joining the ranks of hundreds of thousands of others who are outdoing each other to down drinks in increasingly weird and dangerous ways.
So what’s wrong with it then? Well, only yesterday Facebook rejected calls to ban pages and videos linked to the neknomination craze after the death of a teenager in Ireland who had allegedly been playing it. Jonny Byrne, 19, from Co Carlow in Ireland died after jumping into a river on Saturday in the middle of his nomination. This tragedy followed the death of 22-year-old Dublin DJ Ross Cummins, whose death has also been linked to the online craze.
It is almost a much larger version of the dares you used to play with your mates where your mum used look naffed off and say something like, ‘it will take someone to get hurt or killed for it to stop’. But hey, this is the thing. It is stupid. And wrong. And people have obviously died as a result of it but then people have been dying from alcohol consumption for as long as there has been booze around so this is nothing new. What is new is the added dimension of social media, with the only motivating factor being the pressure to conform, to do something more shocking than the next. As a college tutor I stare in disbelief at my students participating in the videos, lining up mixes of drinks that would make Oliver Reed and Keith Richards double take in astonishment.
It is the drinks that have now become a much more dangerous combination of intoxicants, with reports that it has even moved beyond alcohol to include substances even more hazardous to health. In some videos it is no longer the size or the potency of alcohol which provides the shock factor. In one video, a man in a pub is nominated by his mate who bets that he wouldn’t down a pint that had been shit in by his friend. The man then takes a trip to the mens toilet where he is handed a pint with a large piece of his mates fresh turd floating inside.
Although people are quick to blame the internet it cannot be the only reason why a craze with such dangerous consequences has spread so quickly. Young people publicise their whole lives online but it doesn’t mean the internet is ‘responsible’ for this.
As a fad it will die out as quickly as it came but what does it tell us about society? The fact that so many different people are getting involved, conforming to pressure and taking part in what is essentially a celebration of binge-drinking, is problematic. However, although some might feel they are pressurised into it, the majority are in fact keen, enthusiastic and willing to top previous nominations, which has led to people downing pints of sick, blended mice and the aforementioned chocolate log. And to think, the government is blaming society’s problems on sugar…