In some videos, it’s all about the excessive amounts of alcohol consumed in a short period of time, while in others it’s about what people do as they drink.
One Australian video shows two young men in shorts running towards a helicopter hovering nearby and grabbing on to its undercarriage as it takes off. They dangle precariously as the helicopter swoops over grassland and then, as it flies over a lake, somebody in the helicopter reaches down and hands each of them a bottle of beer, which they duly swig back.
The video caused outrage, with Australian police and safe-drinking advocates saying neknomination was “promoting a dangerous drinking culture” and that the desire to “outperform” the previous video was leading to increasingly dangerous stunts.
“People are trying to find new ways to outperform the next person with bizarre behaviour for social media kudos,” said Shane Varcoe, executive director of Australia’s Dalgarno Institute, which focuses on alcohol issues and their impact on society. The craze began in Australia, allegedly at the acclaimed Scotch boarding school in Perth.
Neknomination videos show drinkers dressed in chicken suits as they perform their dare. Some are in underwear; others strip for the camera as they down beer and spirits. People do neknominations while skiing, fencing, surfing, even car-surfing. There are videos of men urinating into a pint glass before their friend ‘necks’ said pint of urine. There is also footage of young women and men eating dog food alongside their drink of choice.
The craze really only took off in Ireland in the past month and the Union of Students in Ireland’s Joe O’Connor said it was the huge numbers of Irish residing in Australia helped it catch on here as, often, once they had done a neknomination, they then dared someone back home in Ireland to go one better.
There were warnings from Alcohol Action Ireland about its risk but, for many, the real risk hit home all too tragically this weekend when two young men a 19 and 21-year-old died following neknominations.
Jonny Byrne, 19, jumped into the swollen River Barrow as part of a dare, and Ross Cummins, 21, was found an apartment in Dublin City in the early hours of Saturday after downing huge amounts of whiskey.
Expressions of sympathies poured in for the two men yesterday, as did appeals from USI’s youth website, www.spunout.ie, and from AAI to abandon the craze.
“Participating in this ‘game’ is clearly bad for your health and also reinforces the dangerous message that it is normal to get drunk, a message that is at the root of so much of our harmful drinking,” said AAI chief executive Suzanne Costello. “The unfortunate reality is that while this drinking game will come and go, there remains a consistent trend for drunkenness among young Irish people.”
Ian Power of www.spunout.ie said that while neknominations has led to a focus on youth drinking, “as a society as whole, we are in denial about our drinking”.
“Drinking to excess is engrained in our culture and it costs the health services tens of millions each year and leads to endless unnecessary death and misery,” said Mr Power. “We really need to look at the place of alcohol in our culture and we need leadership on this. Why is drinking is the only thing that a lot of people want to do at the weekend? Why can’t we drink moderately?”
Expressing her sympathies to the Cummins and Byrne families, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald also condemned the neknominations craze as “evidence of our society’s broader need to address our binge drinking culture”.
“Young people take their cues from our broader society’s general attitude to drinking, and the popularity of neknominations shows we still have a long way to go in developing a healthy societal attitude to the consumption of alcohol,” said Ms Fitzgerald.