Off their Facebooks!
A report by Anne Casey on 16 May 2014 - originally published as Australia Correspondent to Smorgasbord and Sally Cronin's "Sunday Show" on UK radio station, Express FM 93.7 :
Australia has the dubious honour of being accredited as the birthplace of the online drinking game, “Neknominate”. Linked to multiple deaths in Ireland and the UK, and an epidemic of dangerous incidents across the globe, the game has gone viral since its Facebook launch earlier
this year. Authorities in Australia are now taking measures to turn the tables, using the game itself as evidence to gain convictions against participants!
Spin the bottle?
Like a modern day twist on the old game of dares, Neknominate requires the first ‘player’ to post an online video of themselves downing a pint of beer or other alcoholic drink, then name other players they dare to do the likewise. Under the game rules, nominees must rise to the challenge, uploading their own booze-chugging video within 24 hours or be publicly vilified on social media.
As with any game combining alcohol and ‘one-upmanship’, Neknominate rapidly reached fever proportions. Fuelled by social media infamy at internet speed, the world watched as participants exchanged beer bottles for hard liquor.
In a game of ever-increasing odds, players replaced bad-taste and larrikin behaviour (eg drinking alcohol from a toilet and eating alcohol-laced dog-food) for death-defying stunts, including downing a bottle of vodka while riding a motorbike without a helmet!
With YouTube videos of drinking stunts racking up hundreds of thousands of hits, the social media spin-off for notoriety-thirsty participants drove the stakes ever higher.
In February this year, Neknominate was linked to the deaths of five young men in Ireland and the UK, as well as to increasingly outrageous and dangerous behaviour. Fatalities occurred due to alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related accidents including a drowning.
Responding to public pressure, the original creator of the Facebook game-site claimed he would call it quits. A site still exists on Facebook, as do hundreds of thousands of links to YouTube videos and related commentary across the internet.
This is despite statements by Facebook and YouTube representatives that their organisations do not support content that is directly harmful to people.
Meanwhile, a massive mainstream media outcry has done nothing to stymie the flow of dangerous alcohol- and fame- fuelled social media stuntery.
Game-changer on the cards
Hoping to put the genie back in the bottle, Australian police are now collecting video footage posted on social media sites to use as evidence of crimes being committed.
Based on video evidence from Facebook and YouTube, Western Australian police have charged a man with trespass, committing an indecent act and causing criminal damage. The young man apparently broke into a gym and committed the offences while following instructions as part of an online drinking game.
In another case, police in Victoria are investigating an incident involving video of a young man drinking and then being driven around in the boot of a car. The driver of the car is likely to face charges.
But probably the best back-spin in this particular game is a choice being made by young people in other parts of the globe. Groups of South African and Canadian youths nominated to participate in Neknominate have instead chosen to perform random acts of kindness. Let’s hope their Aussie counterparts decide to follow suit.
Award-winning poet and writer