Neknomination: peer drinking pressure on a global scale

It’s no longer a case of who can drink the most in your friendship group; you’re comparing yourself to the world and there’s always someone who can do better

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The Independent Online

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. 

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.