Whilst the undertaking of a NekNomination has proved deadly, objectors to the latest media craze will not have to worry much longer as already videos of the game are appearing less and less often on networking threads. Not because young drinkers have suddenly been enlightened by the pointlessness of the thing, but because such is the ephemeral nature of the interest in internet-based competition.
In the world of social networking, nothing lasts long and NekNomination is no exception. We all forgot about the Harlem Shake quickly enough, and the act of planking will be before the time of the youngest of NekNominees. So, if these trends are anything to go by, then what are we worried about?
The difference between NekNomination and other social media fads is in the fatal risk that comes with consuming such strong mixes of alcohol in high volumes. However this is hardly a new habit for the nation’s youth; last year one study found 45% of men and 46% of women aged between 16 and 24 drink over twice their weekly recommended allowance of alcohol units, usually all on one night. Most of the NekNominations I have seen are a realisation of this statistic.
The only reason that the game has been brought to our attention through the press is that it makes binge-drinking topical for a tidy news story, peddled by a media whose thirst for a controversial article equals the appetite of our young drinkers. The four fatalities linked to the game just embellish the story with the appropriate weight for such a scandal. While the families and friends of these four young men have my deepest sympathy, and their deaths are by no means less tragic because of their participation in a reckless and juvenile game, the fact of the matter is this is not news.
‘Believed to have started in Australia’ is the common tagline to any journalistic reference to the game. But nekking drinks has always been the thing to do, in this hemisphere as much as anywhere else. Young people have historically encouraged each other to drink down-in-one; organised nights out like pub golf are scheduled around drinking an array of drinks as quickly as possible, and these have been going on decades. The fact that NekNomination situates downing a pint in the spirit of social networking – it’s quick, easy to replicate, and if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen – just meant applying our wider drinking culture to a contemporary format.
In the student community, StudentBeans revealed in 2011, 33% of those surveyed had been injured through alcohol consumption and 59% had experienced memory loss as a result of drinking – with my own University of Liverpool earning second place on the league table of boozy uni’ s. Overall in the UK, 8,748 alcohol related deaths were recorded in the same year and in the last 30 years when most developed countries saw a 9% decrease in overall alcohol consumption, we upped our drinking by the same amount. It seems to me the four victims of the NekNominate rage are merely contributors to these statistics, only they are currently newsworthy.
Those who died were very unfortunate and what happened to them could have happened to anyone, not limited to those playing the game. I can think of hundreds of times when I have drunk too much on one occasion; mixed drinks; injured myself under the influence; and drunk more than a pint in one go. I defy the critics of NekNominations to disclaim they have done any or all of the above. So what will we learn, if anything, from these men’s untimely deaths?
The answer, it appears, is nothing. With Facebook refusing to take down videos of people taking part in NekNominations, and the RSPCA decrying the levels of animal cruelty featured in the most extreme examples, it’s hard to imagine where the trend will end.
Yet there is hope. Some NekNominees have decided to subvert what is expected of them by their internet peers. I myself opted to dowse myself in lager in a vain attempt to buck the trend, whilst others make video appeals to stop it altogether. After one blogger from South Africa circulated his video where he defiantly offered a homeless man a sandwich in the face of popular trends, people have taken up RAKNominations as a humane alternative to the unhealthy game. Facebookers may now be familiar with the sight of their friends confusingly offering perfectly affluent buskers soft drinks and chocolate as a form of viral charity. Performing these random acts of kindness, while a positive substitute to something as nocuous as NekNominating, doesn’t offer much by replacing drinking videos with care-giving videos. In accordance with the established social networking lore, there is nothing about RAKNominations that has any sticking power and the fad will inevitably follow the same fate as its alcohol-abusing namesake. It would be far more progressive to focus on changing our attitude and relationship with alcohol, to ask ourselves why it has been so easy for thousands of young people to take up the challenge of their capacity to drink, than uploading a video of ‘that nice thing I once did’.