An online drinking craze linked to the deaths of two teenagers over the weekend continued across Britain today, despite warnings that it was lethal when taken to its extreme.
The internet trend, known as "neknomination", involves young people filming themselves gulping down large amounts of alcohol in increasingly dangerous settings and posting them online. At the end of the video they shout out a friend’s name and nominate them to perform their own stunt.
Jonny Byrne, a 19-year-old from County Carlow, Ireland, was discovered floating in a river on Saturday after jumping in as part of a nomination stunt. In an emotional plea to his son’s generation, his father Joe Byrne told Irish broadcaster RTE: “I'm pleading to every youngster to think of the things they're doing.
“It has cost my son his life. The whole family is devastated and our lives will never be the same again. I hope this message is heeded because for us, life is virtually over,” Mr Byrne said.
Jonny’s brother, Patrick Byrne, posted online: “This neck nomination s*** HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW my young 19 year old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination.
“He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river. After five hours of searching he is still not found. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from any more of this stupid neck nomination shit.”
A Facebook page dedicated to the craze called NI NeKnomination has now been discontinued and turned to an alcohol awareness page.
Just hours before the discovery of Jonny Byrne’s body, Ross Cummins, 22, was found unconscious in a house in Dublin and died later in hospital. Irish media reported that he was drinking spirits at the time of his death and that his extreme drinking was part of a neknomination.
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said last night that at least one person had been admitted to North Devon’s accident and emergency department as a result of the craze over the last month.
The most controversial internet crazes
The most controversial internet crazes
1/7 Gun Selfies
Where it actually came from remains a mystery, but the 'Selfie' remains a popular feature on the internet - it was even named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2013. However, a number of gangs in America have taken it a step further, posting 'gun selfies' of themselves. Last year, two men were charged for 142 counts of possession of a firearm and were bailed by police after posting numerous photos. The craze has led to several calls for photos to be taken down, with parents fearing that children could try and create their own poses.
Originating in Australia in 2008, the trend of 'planking' swept Britain a year later. The craze, in which people form a straight figure with hands down by their sides, had thousands of participants uploading their efforts on to Facebook. While most were harmless enough, the more daring have been known to plank across railway tracks and between buildings, causing major health concerns. In 2011, a 20-year-old man died after 'planking' on a seven-story building in Australia.
Twerking, a mixture of twisting and jerking, has been around since the late 1990s, but its popularity dramatically increased after Miley Cyrus 'twerked' at the 2013 MTV VMA awards with Robin Thicke, prompting fans to upload their own versions on Youtube - we've even had twerking stormtroopers. It's since been accused of corrupting the minds of young people and, last year, 33 students were suspended after making a video of themselves 'twerking' using school equipment.
4/7 Happy Slap
It's been almost a decade since the Happy Slap craze broke out in the UK, but what started out in as a small joke between friends in Lewisham in 2004 eventually became a nationwide phenomenon. Happy Slapping involved a victim being filmed on a camera phone getting slapped. As the craze spread, incidents became more and more vicious and it was linked to a rise in bullying in school playgrounds. In 2008, a teenage girl was sentenced to two years' detention after filming the fatal beating of a man.
'Tombstoning' emerged in 2012 as a much more dangerous fad. It involved finding the highest rock to leap from, giving jumpers sufficient time to change their body position to resemble a tomb falling into the sea. It was invented initially as a way to keep cool during sizzling temperatures, but as the challenges became more daunting, some experienced horrific injuries as a result of jumping into shallow or rocky waters.
While not as dangerous as other internet fascinations, McDonald's staff are now finding themselves on the receiving end of another internet craze. 'McDiving' started last year and normally comes at the end of an alcohol-fuelled night out, where it is then customary for a 'McDiver' to go to the nearest McDonald's and launch themselves over the counter. McDonald's franchises have even started hiring bouncers at peak times of the day to deal with any mischief makers.
7/7 Gallon Smashing
Given that glossy floors are prominent in supermarkets, it would be deemed acceptable to see the occasional person slip over. But this is no accident. Gallon smashing started to appear on Youtube last year and has becoming increasingly popular in the US. It sees agile teenagers throw gallons of milk in the air as well as hurtling themselves on to the ground. However, with the mess, cost and inconvenience that is caused, the 'gallon smashing' craze has seen security stepped up in supermarkets.
The craze is understood to have started in a private college in Western Australia, before spreading across the world. It is particularly popular amongst students, many of whom continued to participate in it across the UK today.
Nishad Sanzagiri, a student at Edinburgh University, was sitting in a lecture on democracy yesterday afternoon when it was disrupted by someone performing a neknomnation. He said: “This guy got up and stood in the front next to the lecturer. He had a huge glass with him and opened the beer and started chugging. It was really shocking because the news had only just come out about the two guys that died.”
Other students also posted online about lectures being interrupted by a neknomination in Nottingham yesterday.
The mix of alcohol, dangerous stunts and peer pressure is noxious, according to experts. Once someone is nominated there can be pressure to accept the dare and those that do not can become a target for bullies.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP on the DrinkAware advisory board, said: “ We know people who drink alcohol are at much greater risk of falls and accidents so if you combine alcohol with outdoing each other in dangerous situations it’s a real, real concern.
She said the likelihood of alcohol poisoning from drinking such large quantities in a very brief amount of time was high. “The sadness is we have now had deaths and serious injuries. You’d have thought that would make people think, wouldn’t you?”
Amongst the more extreme examples posted by Britons online include a man cheered on by a crowd as he downs an entire litre of rose wine in less than four seconds and a man drinking a mixture of vodka, cat food and urine.
In a video filmed last Wednesday afternoon in Coventry, a man dressed as a sheikh stops traffic in the middle of a busy road to down a pint and then strips naked. In another, a young man posted a video of himself drinking several cans of lager whilst riding his bike around Bristol.
Gerard Hastings, an expert on the promotion of unhealthy products at the University of Sterling’s Institute for Social Marketing, said the craze was indicative of how accepting society had become of binge drinking. “We’re bringing young people into a world where drinking is very much part of the everyday agenda and we don’t recognise alcohol as the very dangerous drug that it actually is”, he said, “We need to bring a balance back.”
“The reality is that for the young male age group alcohol is already a major killer. This social media effect provides another avenue for that. It’s a symptom of alcohol being more central in our lives than is healthy.”