A young Geordie man grins into the camera as he twists open a bottle of Listerine for his neknomination challenge. “I’m going to show you a proper drink now with no alcohol included”, he says as he deposits a large helping of mouthwash into a pint glass. “This is gonna keep you fresh as it goes down, see? Keep you nice and minty inside.” The mixture is then augmented with a dash of Mr Muscle, a splash of fake tan – perhaps not surprising for a Tyneside bacchanologist – and a splattering of Tango Shower Gel and absinthe before being “necked” in less than five seconds.
Whilst watching this video, it’s hard not to marvel at the man’s ability to string two sentences together before drinking the stomach-churning concoction, let alone afterwards. Yet the video was buoyed and championed by hundreds of Facebook users, which in turn transformed the young man into a viral sensation overnight.
Neknomination is an online drinking game believed to have originated in Australia early last year. The premise was simple: drink a pint of an alcoholic beverage in one go and share the footage on the web. However as the game gained popularity, the objectives became increasingly extreme. The Australians approach neknomination with their customary, irreverent jocundity, a harmless dare for the blokes; the British have yet again lived up to their binge drinking culture and taken the game too far. What started as a pub game for the digital age has instead degraded and become a voyeuristic challenge with social media users finding amusement in the potentially lethal antics of an inane few.
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The more outrageous the feat, the more shares it gets. And yet despite the tragedies that have ensued from this recklessness over the past month, students across the UK continue to embrace the drinking game, with popular student website The Tab recently publishing a list of some of the “best” neknominations from universities up and down the country.
Jason Boardman, a first year student at Chester University, says, “I’ve seen quite a few people from my university do the neknominations and I don’t see the point in it. I was nominated a few weeks back but didn’t do it. People are adding things like dog food to it and I just think it’s pointless.”
Emily Paterson, a second year student at the University of Salford, also refused to take part in the online drinking craze. “A lot of students are nominating each other, and while some of the challenges are just good fun, others are taking it too far, which in turn puts pressure on whoever is challenged to out-do their performance.
“I didn’t do my nomination and I got quite a bit of criticism for it, but I’m not going to be pressured into it. I enjoy a drink at the weekend, like the majority of students do, but I want to drink on my terms and on my level, not because someone has challenged me to drink silly amounts for a Facebook game.”
Whilst some users do adhere to the “Don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly,” motto adopted – apparently without irony – by neknomination advocates, others seem hell bent on encouraging participants to be as outrageous and extreme as possible in the pursuit of such gutter entertainment.
Four deaths in Britain and Ireland have been linked to the drinking game in the past month, but this has not deterred the craze. Last week, a man from Kent achieved Internet notoriety after blending dead mice, stinging nettles, spiders and grasshoppers into his pint glass. Another man in Newcastle filmed himself drinking the blood of an elk, and a pallbearer at Lady Thatcher’s funeral was criticised by the press for downing two live goldfish for his challenge. And only Sunday, the drinking craze claimed a fifth life with 20 year old Bradley Eames drinking two pints of gin after proudly proclaiming to the camera; “This is how you drink.”
Whilst the majority of us will quite happily hold our hands up to being inebriated during fresher’s week – and will all readily point the finger at Ring of Fire as the catalyst of such intoxication – this new age online drinking game desensitizes social networkers and encourages crass irresponsibility amongst the vulnerable, idiotic and foolish. More than that, it is costing human lives.