Neknominate Craze is Taking Young Lives


The latest craze spawned by the internet, neknominate, is proving to be as dangerous as “planking.”  It is a drinking challenge thought to have been started off in Perth, Australia, and now a global phenomena among the young.  Those nominated to take part have to find an ingenious way to drink large quantities of booze before passing it over to a new participant.

Neknominate has already seen some extreme daredevil tactics. One YouTube video shows two young Australians dangling from the underside of a helicopter as it flies low over a swollen dam. They do not have any safety harnesses or clips on them, and as the chopper flies, they are drinking a well-known brand of Aussie beer, a VB.

In other alarming examples on the Facebook page dedicated to the craze, there is a video of a man nailing his testicles to a table, as well as slightly more “sensible” stunts such as drinking while kiteboarding. The neknominate page has nearly 20,000 likes.  In one video featuring a skateboarder, the participant comes down a steep hill weaving in and out of  the path of oncoming traffic. He shouts,  “Two beers, like a man.”

Now there are calls to curtail the neknominate craze as two young men have died while taking part in the practice. Jonny Byrne from Carlow in Ireland, aged 19, drowned after jumping in the river at Milford Bridge this weekend. Another Irishman, 22-year-old Ross Cummins, was also found unconscious in a Dublin house on Saturday, and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. He had posted on Facebook that he was taking part in neknominate and it is understood he had been drinking spirits. That’s two young lives directly attributable to the game that have been lost.

Jonny Byrne’s brother Patrick has sent out urgent tweets asking for the craze to stop. Patrick said that Jonny had been determined to “beat the competition,” leading to him jumping into the cold river while drunk.  Patrick has also posted on Facebook “Stop Neknomination Before it’s too Late.”

Shane Varcoe, a spokesman for the Dalgarno Institute, which is concerned with the impact of alcohol on society, is also very worried about neknominate. He said that people were getting more and more reckless in their quest to outperform the others, and the more bizarre, the more social media kudos they earned. Varcoe said it went beyond all “conventional and academic wisdom” and that it had to stop.

Another expert, Michael Farrell of the Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at New South Wales University, warned that drinking games like this in U.S. colleges had led to many deaths. Farrell said that “competitive, heavy drinking” can invariably lead to alcohol poisoning. While under the influence, people were also far more likely to perform stupid stunts or behave in a fashion that led to injury or worse. Young lives can easily be lost.

Meanwhile, one man in South Africa has turned the tables on the Neknomination mania, by using his own nomination as a force for good. Brent Lindeque films himself giving a homeless man a sandwich, a soft drink and a bar of chocolate. His post is also covered in facts and statistics about poverty in South Africa. Describing Neknomination as a “random global phenomena,” he says he decided to make something positive out of his. He then dares two friends to follow suit. Skulling a can of beer is easy, says Lindeque, but harnessing the power of social media to make a real difference is better.

It could be that initiatives like Brent Lindeque’s will turn the focus of Neknominate around, he already has 100,000 views. For now though, it is still spreading like wildfire across the globe and posing a danger to young lives.

By Kate Henderson

Sydney Morning Herald

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