Monday, 10 March 2014

Maria Matthews, research facilitator with a background in health psychology and social media, talks about the neknomination craze

Many of you will be familiar by now with the term “Neknomination”, the drinking game that is currently spreading across social media. 

The game invites individuals to video themselves downing a large quantity of alcohol in a short space of time and then nominating their friends to do the same, often with the suggestion that failing to do so will result in losing face. The game carries a number of worrying implications and has already been linked to a number of deaths across the world. 

Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short space of time could lead to alcohol poisoning, which puts the drinker at risk of choking or inhaling their own vomit, can affect the nerves which control breathing and heartbeat, and can lead to dehydration, hypothermia, seizures and death. Being intoxicated also impairs brain function, leaving individuals vulnerable to accidents and injury, antisocial behaviour and hazardous behaviours such as unsafe sex.

Perhaps the most disturbing issue with Neknomination is the ability for videos on social media sites such as Facebook to go “viral”, meaning not only are individuals exposed to the possibility that their drinking antics may be uncovered by future employers, spouses and family years down the line, but also that children and teenagers as young as 10 are witnessing and potentially mimicking the dangerous behaviours displayed in these videos.

Despite the minimum age requirement of Facebook being 14, many younger children have a Facebook account and a high number of teenagers under 16 use Facebook on a regular basis. Young people are especially at risk of the complications associated with alcohol use and are all the more susceptible to peer pressure and the peril of “cyber bullying”. Young people in particular are heavily influenced by the behaviours of their peers, which may be further exacerbated through social media, particularly if youngsters are continually exposed to their peers engaging in certain behaviours such as drinking and smoking online. The fact that users are publicly dared to take part (and therefore potentially publicly “shamed” if they do not) makes Neknomations a rather perturbing concoction indeed. 

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