By now, I'm sure almost everyone has heard about the latest infamous social media craze - neknominations. In case you're unaware, a #neknomination is where people film themselves downing a drink (usually alcohol) before nominating others to complete the same task, (and likely go one step further) within 24 hours. The video is then uploaded onto respective social media sites and - depending on the extremes - spreads like wildfire.
It's been called a deadly craze because it has reportedly claimed the lives of two young Irish men - Johnny Byrne, 19 who was pulled from the river Barrow and Dublin DJ Ross Cummins, 22, who was found dead in a house in Dublin.
Earlier this month the media also reported on the death of Isaac Richardson, a 20-year-old man whose death is being linked to a neknomination.
Police are also investigating its link to the death of a young man in Cardiff and Rugby player Bradley Eames, 20, was the fifth young person to lose his life to this deadly craze. Bradley died four days after filming himself drinking two pints of gin in a NekNominate challenge.
Shockingly, these reports have not deterred others from continuing to take part. How many more young people need to lose their lives to this dangerous phenomenon before we take action?
My own Facebook newsfeed has been filled with various videos of people conducting their nominations - and it's gradually gotten worse. From downing a pint of lager or a bottle of wine, to a glass of urine or lethal cocktail of spirits - and sometimes even goldfish - ugh. So how has such a pointless and well, disgusting drinking 'game' become so popular?
Well firstly, it is not a game. It is a competition, and a very dangerous one at that. As the chain goes on, so too does the intensity of the videos. Those who back out or break the chain are ridiculed by their so-called friends. The cybershame of failing to live up to the nomination is putting increased peer pressure on youths to rise to this dangerous challenge. Participants are not willingly entered into this competition. They are nominated. And I'm sure many are not prepared for this nomination. But they willingly take part in the competition. But at what point does peer pressure become dangerous cyber bullying? This line is becoming very blurred.
The first number of videos I watched included the contestant downing a pint of beer or cider as fast as possible. Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves and it felt like harmless fun. But as soon as the potential for notoriety grew, so did the feats. They became more extreme and more dangerous. And that's when it felt like it was getting out of hand. Everyone wants their minute in the spotlight and their chance to be the 'neknomination' hero before the next social media craze comes along. The pressure created draws young people in to very dangerous activities. The abuse of alcohol has allowed this game to become a serious threat to life. Speed drinking vast quantities of alcohol is dangerous enough but the desire to outperform the last nomination is making this game all the more dangerous.
And it's not just boys taking part. Girls are also rising to the challenge and adding ingredients such as raw eggs, whey protein, washing up liquid and crushed up cigarettes to their chosen alcoholic beverage. The drinking craze is not limited to teens. Professional adults in their 20s are also jumping on the bandwagon. This isn't entertainment, this isn't harmless fun. This is senseless and foolish. Why would anyone want to drink a repulsive concoction of ingredients mixed with alcohol? Why would anyone want to watch a video of their friend struggling to down a dangerous volume of alcohol? Furthermore, why would you nominate one of your pals to take part in such a harmful challenge? I don't want to lose one of my friends to neknominations. I'm sure no one does. Then why is this craze continuing to spread? The internet and social media in particular have desensitised us to the dangers of what we now consider entertainment.
The competitive nature of the craze reinforces the very dangerous attitude our society has towards alcohol. We know the dangers of drug abuse but the ready availability of alcohol means we underestimate its dangers. We recently lost one of our acting greats to a drug overdose. Why doesn't downing a bottle of vodka seem to hold the same danger as injecting a lethal dose of heroin? Why would anyone intentionally and willingly consume enough alcohol to cause extreme harm to yourself? Where is the fun or the pride in that?
We need to adapt a more responsible attitude to drinking. Where is the self- respect in this game? Young people are abandoning personal reputation for some Facebook likes. Seems pretty pointless to me. The glorification of over-drinking is not something to be encouraged. Society needs to address the drinking culture, not promote it.
Neknominations arguably took off so much in Ireland because of its infamous drinking culture and enthusiasm of over consumption. Binge drinking is unfortunately the norm and celebrated on a weekly basis. The Irish drink 2.7 litres more per year than any country in Europe.
Our attitude toward alcohol - one that is supported by the world every March 17 - needs an overhaul. But that can't be done overnight. What can be done is changing what neknominations are about. We need to stand up to neknominations. We don't have to fall victim to this lethal combination of peer pressure and binge drinking, we can be individuals. A movement to reject neknominations in favour of something more positive is underway. Like Brent Lindeque's take - he filmed himself doing a good deed, and passed it on. Can we please let something like that go viral?