For the last week social media outlets around the United Kingdom have been covered in video uploads entitled “Necknominate”, as a geographer this craze has resulted in a series of questions, many of which I fear will be unanswered.
Necknominate is a drinking game originating in Australia which is now spreading across the UK at an alarming rate. The purpose of the game is to drink a so called “dirty pint” comprising of a mixture of alcoholic and undesirable ingredients. Upon completion a video of the challenge is posted onto social media and another person is named with a 24-hour time limit to beat the previous video. Each video is expected to be more outrageous or flamboyant than the last.
These videos have escalated quickly with each video trying to be more extreme than the last. This practice is already known to have cost two lives in Ireland and the Police and youth organisations are condemning these activities.
This craze is sweeping through both rural and urban areas and the difference in the type of videos to emerge is vast. In rural areas the videos tend to be about drinking in a unique place in a unique manner in order to get one up on members of the peer group. For example videos have emerged of people drinking single pints of bitter whist riding a bull or drinking whilst out with their local hunt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbLn0wHQaks). Whilst videos containing people from urban areas tend to be more extreme in terms of the drink that is consumed, one video features someone drinking a concoction involving a live chicken (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=711651928869785&set=vb.179893345378982&type=2&theater) whilst another features someone drinking a mix involving their own excrement.
Without conducting any form of academic study, it is evident from these videos that the vast majority of participants tend to be young men, leading to me to question the gendered nature of these videos and why it is they are more compelled to participate in this activity? Do these young men feel pressure from their peers? Do they run the risk of being ridiculed if they refuse to participate in this dangerous game? Or is it simply that people want their five minutes of fame? After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?
Wrong. When recording these videos people are only thinking of their reputation with their peer group. When posting these videos online, they are in the public domain, they can be viewed by anyone and may even impact upon future employment prospects. Would you really want a future employer seeing you vomit after consuming a pint of God knows what?
The concept has been described on Facebook as “Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don’t break the chain, don’t be a dick. The social drinking game for social media! #NeckNominate. Drink Responsible”. Again this puts pressure on the person who has been nominated, to drink or to risk ridicule with many taking the “Drink Responsible” as a challenge to create a video that is outrageous as possible.
Videos have emerged of people who clearly look under the age of 18 participating in this game, who has nominated these children? Why have they been nominated? And where are they getting the alcohol from? Are all important questions that have been raised as a result of the popularity of these videos. These questions and the role of parents in policing alcohol consumption should be answered by social scientists and the ethics of this explored.
These drinking challenges place a grim light onto Britain and our relationship with alcohol. The way we drink has changed. Alcohol used to consumed in pubs, it was something that was consumed in social environment with friends and family. For many the social aspect of the evening was more important than the number of pints drank. This has changed the increasing availability of cheap alcohol at the supermarkets has meant that many no longer go out to the pub for a social drink. Look at any town or city on a Saturday night the streets are empty until 10pm, when people emerge from their homes going to pubs and clubs in semi-inebriated states ordering a number of brightly coloured shots before moving onto the next place. For many, gone are the days of going out to the local pub and putting the world to rights over a pint of bitter. I’m afraid these Necknomination videos are a sign of modern British society.
One good thing has emerged from this craze. Following on from his nomination Brent Lindeque a resident of South Africa thanks his friend for his nomination before handing an apparently homeless man a sandwich, a chocolate bar and a bottle of cola. He then nominates two of his friends to do the same, trying to do something good out of this phenomenon. Underneath he writes “Downing a can of Castle Light is easy… imagine if we all harnessed the power of social media to make a real difference in peoples lives. #OnlyGoodThings”. Can you imagine if we all did that? The video can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-wztJ4m6xE.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going out with my friends and having a few drinks and I have certainly been no angel when it comes to my relationship with alcohol. However for me, these days, alcohol is something to be enjoyed responsibly, it is a lubricant for celebration. I hope others will come to realise this and will realise how stupid they look when “necking” an alcohol mix so fast that they do not have time to enjoy the taste or remember their night.
My own brother has participated in this activity something that my family and I have condemned. I would take this opportunity to ask people to think about their actions and their consequences before participating. In my opinion the bravest, the strongest and the decision that would get the most respect is not to give into peer pressure and to say NO to this dangerous and potentially life changing game.
This game has again raised the important questions about the geographies of the relationship between Britain and alcohol, peer pressure, gendered consumption of alcohol as well as wider questions of societal change and norms. Questions are also raised regarding the differences between rural and urban drinking practices. It was the difference between the rural and urban-based videos that inspired this blog post and this difference is something that I would quite like to explore in a side-project to my PhD (if I can find the time).
Finally, my thoughts are with the friends and family of Ross Cummins and Jonny Byrne at this time, hopefully their lives won’t have been lost in vain, people will learn from their mistakes and this game will stop.