Yesterday I received my first “neknomination”. After a careful two and a half seconds of deliberation, I decided to ignore it.
To be fair, as a twenty-something social media addict, it was only a matter of time before someone decreed it was my turn to down something disgusting. What’s more surprising, however, is how despite the dangerously excessive drinking and incriminating evidence for all to see, “neknomination” has become a worldwide phenomenon.
The game, thought to have originated from Australia, has exploded. Players must down a pint of alcohol, record it on camera before nominating someone else to do the same – all within 24 hours. And, as to be expected when you start posting a competition on social media, the one-upmanship gets intense. Really intense.
In the last few hours alone I’ve watched people on my Facebook timeline drink their own urine, sip beer upside down from a toilet or attempt to “nek” a pint while clinging on to a flying helicopter. Not only can I not compete with that – all I had lying around was a couple of bottles of coconut juice and a lemon – I wouldn’t want to compete with that.
It’s not just the irresponsible drinking or the certified career suicide that bothers me about “neknomination”, it's how the game replaces real life irresponsibility with friends with a faux online reality, founded on a desire for fame and “likes”.
This weekend has seen two deaths linked to the trend.
It's clear to see that excessive drinking is an issue for young people today, but that's not all we should be focusing on eradicating. Of course that doesn't mean we should stop trying to educate people about the dangers of alcohol, but we do need to look at what's exacerbating the problem.
Young people and alcohol has always been a potent mix, whether it's drinking vodka in a park or stumbling home from a nightclub on payday, but “neknomination” is different. It has opened up a peer drinking pressure on a global scale and is eroding the way we interact with our peers and form friendships. It’s no longer a case of who can drink the most in your own friendship group; you’re comparing yourself to the whole world and there’s always someone who can do better.
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.
Drinking alone for the sole purpose of uploading a video also takes away the safety barriers of real people; do something too risky with friends and someone is likely to tell you you’re taking it too far. These rules just don’t apply online. You’re just another kid doing a another thing that is mildly amusing for a few seconds. It just so happens that this thing could be fatal.
Yes, binge drinking is a problem, both here and around the world, but to tackle this effectively we need to look at the wider picture. Social media may not be the problem itself, but it’s escalating underlying social problems to distressing levels. Perhaps that’s where we should be starting.