Natasha Clarke is a PhD student in the Department of Psychological Sciences.
This article was originally published on the Diary of an Alcohol Researcher blog:
“Last week most of us probably hadn’t ever heard the phrase “Nek-Nomination”, but search it on Google today and you will find plenty of new articles and links explaining this new craze.
It’s a new online drinking game, in which the nominee downs a pint, and then passes the nomination to a friend, who has 24 hours to do the same thing. The video is posted on a social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter. The concept is described very eloquently as: “Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don’t break the chain, don’t be a d***”. Simple really.
The first time I saw my friend post one I thought it was pretty hilarious. He put an egg in his pint, and downed the whole thing, and just looked slightly queasy after. Entertaining, but not too dissimilar from something you would see in a pub or at a house party. But since my first innocent experience of Nek-Nomination, the examples I have heard, seen and read about have got progressively more disturbing.
One guy was dangled upside down by his caring friends and downed a pint from a toilet. One girl ate a live fish. Another video shows a man being hit with objects whilst drinking and having a firework thrown at him before his shorts are set alight.
Not only are drinks being consumed, but crimes are also being carried out during these videos. Now if you wanted to rob a bank and get away with it, the last thing you would do is video yourself doing it and put it up on Facebook for the whole world to see.
However, people seem to think a Nek-Nomination is a protective bubble, making anything acceptable if it’s part of the game. Examples include people stealing beers from shops before drinking them, and two guys downing a pint and making a getaway in the boot of a car (they were later found and arrested – easy to find with a number plate).
Now downing pints is not a new notion, but traditionally it’s in a pub with your mates. In a pub you can forget that silly moment when you thought it was a good plan to see who could down their Guinness faster, but when things go viral they escalate stupidly fast and this is evidence of it happening first-hand.
This game means everybody can witness your antics: your family, your university, and your current /possible future employers (maybe not so possible anymore).
According to research carried out by Drinkaware, over a third of us experience “cybershame” – that humiliation the next morning when you realise what you did, and then you realise that what you did is on Facebook and everybody knows. This results in frantic untagging and deleting, and 47% of 18-24 year olds untag drunk photos of themselves they didn’t want others to see. I certainly have: pictures which in the drunken moment were amazing, but on closer inspection I realise my eyes are half shut and my lipstick looks like the joker. I’m sure the “cybershame” of a Nek-Nomination is pretty similar, and not so easy to remove with pressure from friends and the future nominations that have been put in place.
There have now been two deaths in Ireland linked to the craze, highlighting the more serious risks this extreme game poses. As people try to better each other, the risks get more serious and a person is in danger from both the large volume of alcohol being consumed rapidly, and from whatever perilous situation they have decided to put themselves in.
Drinking large amounts can lead to an overdose of alcohol. This occurs when a person has a blood alcohol content that produces impairments that increase the risk of harm. This can vary among individuals. A dangerous amount of drink may not harm one person, but could be potentially dangerous to another. The potential danger depends on age, gender, drinking experience, and short terms aspects, such as whether a person has eaten.
You can imagine what could happen when an impressionable 16 year old boy sees a video of a 22 year old man on Facebook downing a pint of hard spirit and decides to copy.
If a person then continues to drink despite significant impairments it could lead to alcohol poisoning. This is when an excess of alcohol in the bloodstream leads to the shutting down of areas in the brain which control basic life functions. Symptoms range from confusion and vomiting to seizures and trouble with breathing. The best action to take when this happens is medical action – sleeping it off won’t work; neither will a cold shower or a coffee.
Thankfully the internet can be used to shut things down as quickly as they took off, although sadly it is too late for those who have already taken it too far. But there is now a Facebook Group dedicated to stopping this new craze. I actually think we can change it for the better and personally enjoy the alternative takes on the game.
One of my brother’s friends did a great version: It shows two young men in a pub, enjoying a pint the old-fashioned way, not in 5 seconds flat. This is the way a pint is meant to be consumed. They said they did it “mostly because it was funny, but also because it highlights the stupidity of the whole thing.”
Brent from South Africa has also spun his own take on the game. To highlight poverty he hands a homeless man a sandwich, chocolate bar and a drink before nominating his friends to do the same. He’s hoping this positive move can encourage others to film similar versions, and use the game to make a difference. Obviously the videos can still be entertaining and funny, as it’s definitely possible to be funny without being dangerous and stupid.”