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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Valentyn Volkov via Shutterstock

Column ‘NekNominations’ craze will soon pass – but our drinking culture won't

NekNominations are just the latest fad but we shouldn’t simply dismiss the problem or pass the buck to social media networks: Ireland’s attitude to binge drinking is dangerous and must change, writes Joe O’Connor.

ON BEHALF OF the Union of Students in Ireland, I’d first of all like to extend sincere condolences to the families and friends of the young men who tragically passed away over the weekend.

It is clear that the worst-held fears of all of us regarding the ‘NekNomination’ craze which has gripped the Facebook accounts of young Irish people over the past couple of weeks, have now come to pass. While unfortunately for many, it comes too late, we must now reflect on the events of the past 48 hours, and break this vicious and dangerous cycle.

On Sunday, we launched an online campaign calling on people to ‘Break The Chain’- To stand up and say No to the peer pressure involved with NekNominations.

For many this has been easier said than done – failing to complete a NekNomination in many cases has led to cyberbullying and online abuse. And it’s this type of peer pressure that led to the escalation of this particular fad, and tells a story of the nature of drinking habits in this country.

Drinking culture exclusive to my generation

While others may believe otherwise, this is not a drinking culture exclusive to my generation, and unless we act now to curb our continued acceptance of alcohol abuse as part of our ‘culture’, it is assured to continue into the next generation and beyond.

We are calling on young people to consider not only the impact or harm that taking part in NekNominations may have on themselves or the friends they are interacting with, but also young children who they may be connected to on Facebook, or vulnerable young people who would not be used to engaging in this type of activity.

While the potential knock-on effects may have been obvious at an early stage, as the days passed by videos of people downing or ‘necking’ pints not dissimilar to what you might find in an Irish pub on a regular weekend, were replaced by a mass escalation as NekNominations became a race to the bottom. More dangerous challenges, greater risk, larger quantities and stronger volumes of alcohol. It was only going in one direction.

The impact of emigration

It is worth mentioning the impact of emigration on the levels of popularity and remarkably quick escalation of people participating in NekNominations – I have seen from my own Facebook timeline, the large numbers of Irish abroad (particularly in Australia, where this fad originated) nominating their friends back home, and vice-versa. It has become a short-term online social platform for friends and groups split apart, and a commentary on our ‘lost generation’.

I believe that NekNominations are now going to die out. I believe it will pass as quickly as it’s emerged, and there are positive signs that a majority of young people are now choosing to ‘break the chain’. However, we must not dismiss this and simply move on, or pass the buck to social media networks suggesting that tighter regulation will solve all our problems.

There is an inherent problem with alcohol abuse amongst people in this country, not just the youth. NekNominations are merely synonymous with Ireland’s wider drinking culture and the very real issues we face, merely expressed through a modern medium where everything is public. This should act as a conversation-starter for us to finally take responsibility, face up to the very real problem we have, and act to address it.

Tackling the way the alcohol industry advertises

We are working with the Department of Health on a new alcohol awareness campaign, independent of ties to the drinks industry, which provides unbiased information to young people on the dangers associated with binge drinking and alcohol excess. We will certainly take learnings from recent events to help inform this.

We need to look at the way the drinks industry advertises and promotes itself to young people, and how this can be regulated better. Alcohol sponsorship of sports and events must be on the table. Sports has a role to play in Irish society beating this enormous challenge, and when viewed pragmatically, it is understandable given the funding cuts of recent years the difficulties faced in replacing this sponsorship. However we must now work towards phasing this out completely.

But if for no other reason than out of respect for those who have lost so much over so little, we hope that people will choose to Say No to NekNominations. #BreakTheChain

Joe O’Connor is President of the Union of Students in Ireland.

Read: ‘Will it take my brother’s death for people to realise how stupid neknomination is?’

Read: Turning a negative to a positive: Alternatives to neknominate gather pace

Read: Neknominations “will lead to more deaths”

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