By Sam Mercer & Christian Mather
Christian Mather explains the motivation behind his counter-campaign against 'NEKnomination'
We currently have, at our fingertips, access to an extremely powerful medium for change. A medium more powerful than any other that has existed in human history. In eras gone by, to spread a message to the globe, you would have to be the leader of a populace, or at least have access to a significant amount of power. Back then, you really had to work for the attention, perhaps even resorting to propaganda, and this meant that the messages which were diffused through to the general public were laden with belief, passion and purpose.
Nowadays, with the click of a mouse, we can instantly disseminate any message we see fit, with little thought spared to consider the consequences of our actions. This ultimately means that this powerful medium, labelled 'social media', can be harnessed as an unbelievably influential force, for good or for evil.
There is no doubt in my mind that the those who thought up a game such as 'NEKnomination' had absolutely no intention of generating a platform that would lead to the deaths of several of the games' players, nor to the destruction of the lives of their families. But that isn't the point. You must always consider the power and reach that this medium has, regardless of whether it's solely directed at that guy that you hate or openly transmitted across the entire globe. The wrong message at the wrong time can be utterly devastating.
This is ultimately why I made my video. 'RAKNomination', the saintly counter-part to 'NEKnomination', utilises the same social media traits that ultimately made 'NEKnomination' so far-reaching and dangerous. However, it is designed to genuinely contribute to the greater good of humanity, rather than to the exponential growth of life-threatening idiocy. The video was haphazardly thrown together, it is certainly not high quality and I have never even edited a video before. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that I am merely an insignificant cog in a colossal machine, and yet with enough passion, enough belief, and a little bit of luck, I too can propagate a message that may help to restore balance to the enormous scales of good versus evil. And let's be honest, right now, those scales need all the help they can get.
As well as representing another dangerous phenomenon, it is clear to see that this trend represents a further extension of 'Lad Culture'. Therefore, it is important to issue an appropriate challenge to its propagation across all activities, in order to combat it wholeheartedly. 'NEKnomination'; a drinking game consisting of a social display of one's ability to drink alcohol excessively whilst performing stunts, has shifted from harmless fun into (in some cases) a fatal activity.
In co-authoring this article, we are issuing a direct challenge to this dangerous game, but also waging war on the culture as a whole, and assessing its implications across the board.
As identified by the NUS report and by many of the student voices contributing to the 'Lad Culture' debate, this "pack mentality" is quite often fuelled by alcohol with nightclubs even using the culture "as part of their business model." However, this new and more individualised wave of alcohol abuse is almost bypassing the nightclub environment entirely, using social media as a force for dissemination of 'laddism.'
Why are we so worried about this trend? Firstly, the use of social media allows peer pressure to escape the security of a university campus where, in many cases, support can be found for students felt pressured or uneasy whilst on campus. As identified by The Independent, "It has opened up a peer drinking pressure on a global scale and is eroding the way we interact with our peers and form friendships." Utilising the anarchic world of global communication, 'lad culture' is free to push itself and its victims to the limits of responsibility - as has been demonstrated by two people who have died already.
But more importantly, in allowing this trend to go unchallenged, we continue to reinforce the ideas of passivity and nonchalance that too many within the media and political elite associate with students and young people. With research by Huffington Post Students revealing disturbing evidence of sexual intimidation and violence against female students being improperly treated, we can see how even professional passivity towards students victimised by this culture, has given way to the more serious and sinister behaviour it demonstrates.
So, with arguably the world's most powerful tool for the distribution of information at our disposal, we say change your attitude. This article, and the RAKnomination campaign, represent a direct challenge using a positive and proactive message; not only towards 'NEKnomination' but to 'Lad Culture' as a whole. Without a significant effort to retaliate against the evolution of this culture, its existence will continue to reinforce the negative, yobbish stigma attached to students and young people. More importantly, this challenge serves as a pivotal step towards eradicating the peer pressure, sexual violence and dangerous behaviour so commonly found in 'Lad Culture.'