I had my video planned out days before I received my nomination. Three kinds of spirit, beer, protein powder and raw egg, with an extra hot bird’s-eye chilli to finish things off. I was finally chosen, little more than a week after the first ‘Neck and Nominates’ had begun to appear on my Facebook.
For the small number whose social networking pages have not been overrun by the ‘NekNominate’ phenomenon, I shall briefly explain. An individual posts a short video of themselves online, beginning by mentioning the name of the person who has nominated them. They then neck (at least) a pint containing some kind of alcohol, adding to their concoction whatever substances they feel sufficient to outdo and impress their friends. With this done, they name two more individuals, who have a time limit of 24 hours to post a similar video.
It was towards the end of January that the first of these posts began to hit the UK, which originated in Australia before going viral globally. In all honesty, I found the first few videos of my friends subjecting themselves to progressively dirtier pints pretty funny. The drinking itself constituted only a few seconds of these miniature productions by which, through the use of various scenarios, props, costumes, and even languages, I was usually kept entertained for several minutes.
Less than two weeks on, and my attitude has changed entirely. It was on the day that I was due to post my own video that the tide of public opinion began to turn irreversibly. Tragic as it was, there was a sense of predictability about the two deaths in Ireland last weekend, which have been linked to ‘NekNomination’. Videos of those declining to take up their nomination are now attracting more ‘likes’ than those in which the participants play by the rules.
OUSU President Tom Rutland recently said, “The Neknominate craze is foolish and dangerous. Downing a pint or more of spirits, as just one example of the videos I’ve seen, is extremely dangerous and has lead to serious harm.” Undeniably, part of what has made this latest fad so popular is the entertainment we derive from seeing others undergoing grotesque or dangerous challenges. In May 2011, an Australian man plunged to his death from a balcony whilst participating in another internet craze called ‘planking’. Once people have pushed these ‘games’ to the point where they become lethal, it is only a matter of time before their popularity dries up. It has far less to do with people suddenly realising the stupidity of their acts, and more to do with the fact that once such an extreme has been reached, there is very little anyone can do to provoke a significant reaction.
To the young Welsh man who posted a NekNominate in which he downed a pint of beer, bit the head off a dead bird, and finished off with a pint of vodka in which was floating a stubbed out cigarette, I say well done. If NekNominate is a game, then you’ve clearly won. Now, to everyone else still clogging up Facebook with videos doing the bare minimum requirement pint of Fosters, prolonging the demise of this craze, stop. There is nothing left to prove.
NekNominate. Like the floods and Miley Cyrus, it must get successively worse if it is to survive in the public consciousness. The deaths linked to this online drinking challenge are undoubtedly tragic. However, banning these videos from Facebook would only enhance the trend’s appeal among younger people, especially teenagers.
NekNominate has dominated the media in recent weeks. When the craze came to prominence, the Daily Mail described it as “extreme, disgusting and outlandish” and the tragic deaths linked to NekNominate have intensified opposition to it.
But coverage has been both condemnatory and indulgent. On Tuesday, the Metro published an article about Aaron Johnson putting dead mice and grasshoppers in a blender and his claim that he “loved every minute of it”. The next day, the newspaper published pictures of Steph-Lou Jones, who walked into McDonalds in a Baywatch-style swimsuit before drinking a pint of beer. The phenomenon’s portrayal is simultaneously terrible and entertaining.
NekNominate is likely to disappear naturally and must be allowed to do so. The one-upmanship involved in making a cocktail more extreme than the last means that it will inevitably become too difficult or dangerous to keep the attention of the majority. Once everyone who was ever likely to down a pint of Frosty Jacks, Curaçao and dog-hair has done it once, the momentum will be lost.
What’s more, once the novelty has worn off, people will start to think of the long-term ramifications of NekNominate. Many are already concerned about appearing drunk in photos accessible by their employers or potential employers. Drinkaware research shows that 47% of 18-24 year olds admitted de-tagging themselves from drunk photos they didn’t want others to see. It’s only a matter of time before students realise the link between that video of them drinking their own urine and the rejection email from PwC.
It is important to remember that only the most bizarre cases have been reported in the media. For many, the craze is about drinking pints of lager or cider in imaginative locations. The videos depicting the type of grisly concoctions which have got the RSPCA concerned are not representative of the majority of participants.
Alcohol remains the only socially acceptable vice, so it is unsurprising when people search for novel ways to drink. Indeed, the drinking games which students have been playing for years often involve a greater quantity of alcohol than NekNomination. The problems associated with binge drinking extend far beyond this new online context which NekNominate has provided. Everyone is aware of the risks of alcohol. With drinking and “the internet” being the two mainstays of students’ existence, I’m surprised it has taken until 2014 for NekNominate to become a craze. If 2013 brought Man vs. Food, then 2014 was the year of Man vs. Drink. The only question is, what will 2015 have in store?