Necknomination reflects a society that has failed to address its drink culture


Drinking games are always dangerous. But the latest one, spawned by neknomination and carried on the social networking site Facebook, was particularly pernicious. Facebook management maintained providing a platform for a binge-drinking game involving young people was not “directly harmful” and declined to close it down. Following intense pressure, however, the creators of neknomination announced it will be redesigned as an alcohol awareness page.

The neknomination game involved young persons videoing themselves while consuming quantities of alcohol; posting the pictures online and then nominating someone else to follow suit. The welcoming link page featured large glasses of beer under the slogan: “ It’s not a crime to get drunk”. A warning not to break the chain came with the nominating process. This constraint was criticised as an aggressive marketing ploy, designed to exert peer pressure on young and vulnerable people. The extreme behaviour of some participants projected a “lad culture” while the public nature of the drinking challenge raised the issue of cyberbullying. It was a particularly nasty piece of alcohol promotion.

Calls for the website to be closed down have won support from health professionals and Government ministers. Prof Frank Murray of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland predicted that extreme binge drinking, spurred on by websites, would lead to further deaths.

This game, which the drinks industry has now forsaken, is a manifestation of the creativity and effectiveness of alcohol promotions and society’s vulnerability to exploitation. One-third of Irish people are “alcohol junkies” and binge-drink at least once a week. Adults are as likely as young people to fall into this category. The health costs are fearful. In spite of that, successive governments have failed to control the number of sales outlets; establish a minimum price for alcohol and restrict drinks promotion and sponsorship where it is inappropriate.

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