‘Social media not the cause of our alcohol problems’

Nek Noms are fairly awful, although this weekend wasn’t the first where young people died from the effects of alcohol.

I find Irish people can get into a craze fairly quickly. This can be directed into good, such as promoting equal rights, but it can often result in harmful behaviour too.

For the past two weeks my Facebook and Twitter have been full of Nek Nominations. Essentially, this Australian convention involves recording yourself drinking a pint and then nominating a peer to follow your lead within the next 24 hours.

Yes, anyone who might think it through would probably concede it is not a good idea. However, in a world where we seek gratification from likes, it’s an opportunity for attention.

In short, the trend went viral and in two reported cases this weekend: fatal.

But let’s not pretend that our alcohol problems came from social media (or Australia). Yes, when we have a tragedy it is nice to have someone to blame. It’s also fairly easy. And there is so much stuff online you could probably blame anything post-1994 on it. But there is a difference between what is right and what is easy.

According to Alcohol Action Ireland, 88 deaths here every month are directly attributable to alcohol. This problem originated long before social media and Nek Noms.

I’m a 19-year-old who doesn’t drink. It’s something I am neither proud nor ashamed of but it has made me acutely aware of the alcohol abuse of my peers, and those who went before them. Being a non-drinker seems to draw anxiety from people sometimes. They are often uncomfortable about it and I suppose I can understand why.

Alcohol problems are disastrous. But when something becomes normalised it suddenly becomes okay — a bit like how we discriminate between alcohol and drugs. To pile every kind of drug except alcohol under one umbrella is proof that we don’t take it seriously.

I saw a fair share of Nek Nom videos this week. Some of them showed marvellous humour, while others were worrying.

There’s nothing more worrying than seeing someone drink a pint of spirits, regardless of whether they are hospitalised afterwards. Thousands do that kind of damage on a regular basis; the only difference between then and now is that they are being videoed doing so.

There are now viral photos being circulated around Facebook, hashtags and well meaning Twitter campaigns: #StopNekNoms. But they have totally missed the point. We need to take a step back and realise that the problem is deeper rooted. Until we take decisive action like we have with road safety or drink driving, we are wasting our time.

* Laura Gaynor, 19, is a film and TV production student and part-time radio presenter in Raidió na Life.

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