Social media fuels dangerous drinking trend, lacking public responsibility

A worldwide trend known as Neknominate, a game that encourages youth to challenge one another to drink in extreme ways, recently took the nation by storm via social media. Videos of teens drinking raised concerns among communities and put social media sites in the hot seat.

Originating among Australian teens, the game consists of two parts. First, an individual downs an alcoholic beverage in a unique manor or includes ridiculous ingredients; this is nicknamed “nekking.” For example, one group of boys drank from a toilet while another boy mixed a deceased mouse into his drink.

Then the individual challenges two of his or her friends to outdo that drinking feat, giving them merely 24 hours to drink in an even more ridiculous manor. The entire event is recorded and posted on Facebook.

 

 

However, this trend is taking a drastic turn, as five men under the age of 30 have died from drinking these dangerous concoctions, CNN reported.

The trend is also influencing individuals at a young age. A 10-year-old boy from the U.K. completed in the challenge and became “violently ill” after drinking a mixture of vodka, Nando’s sauce and mayonnaise, Metro reported.

The biggest issue with the game’s popularity? The overwhelming amount of views the videos gain, as they are posted to popular social sites such as YouTube and Facebook. Individuals are faced with Internet harassment if the challenge goes unaccepted, creating a monumental weight of peer pressure.

“Frankly, if the thrill wasn’t there, your mates weren’t seeing you, I expect it would very rapidly fizzle out,” Dr. Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser for the U.K.-based charity Drinkaware, told CNN.

From outraged politicians to concerned parents across the world, this growing trend has left many scrutinizing Facebook’s ethics. How can popular social media platforms, which continuously allow such behaviors that are endangering the lives of those who feel forced to participate, remain unresponsive to the situation?

“We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but behavior which some people may find offensive or controversial is not always necessarily against our rules,” Facebook said in a statement.

This type of peer pressure, which is infinitely multiplied because of the large exposure on the World Wide Web, is an act of cyberbullying. Belittling others because of their choice in behavior is the definition of bullying, a realization Facebook has yet to make.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen outrageous behaviors explode on the Internet. The “cinnamon challenge,” in which individuals swallowed large quantities of cinnamon without water, and the “gallon challenge,” in which participants drank an entire gallon of milk within an hour without vomiting, dominated Facebook profiles.

Why do we continue to encourage such barbaric behavior? These challenges are despicable, extreme and unsafe. What are we “proving” to each other through these games, other than the ease at which we give into the desires of our peers just to keep a certain status?

The Local Government Association, which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, is calling for social media giants such as Facebook to create warnings for users.

“More should be done to highlight the dangers and persuade people not to participate,” Katie Hall, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said to Mirror News.

Trends like this must come to an end. The message can’t just come from social media sites, however. Society must be willing to put a foot down, especially when lives are at stake.

Reach the columnist at rsmouse@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse