A drinking game popularized by social media has had some deadly consequences.
Known as "NekNomination," the game involves filming someone finishing a whole bottle of hard liquor in one sitting, and sharing the feat on social media with the hashtag #neknominate challenging others to do the same.
"There's a huge amount of peer pressure involved,” Joe O’Connor, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, told RTE. “It can lead to cyberbullying and online shaming of people who do not take part, and that's certainly been a factor as to why it has escalated."
The game has been cited in the deaths of two teens over the weekend, both in Ireland. The body of 19-year-old Jonny Byrne from Carlow, Ireland, was found on Saturday after he reportedly was performing a stunt while playing “NekNomination.” The teen’s brother Patrick posted a plea on his Facebook page asking people to stop playing the game, suggesting Byrne died after jumping into a river.
“This neck nomination s**t has to stop right now,” he wrote. “He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint, he jumped into the river. After five hours of searching, he is still not found. If people have any decency and respect, they will refrain from any more of this neck nomination s**t”.”
In Dublin, a 22-year-old DJ died after reportedly playing “NekNomination.” The body of Ross Cummins was found early Saturday morning in Dublin.
“Today was the most devastating day I have ever had," Niamh Murphy, Cummins’ girlfriend, wrote on Facebook. "I lost not only the love of my life today but my best friend.”
According to the Telegraph, the game originated in Australia and gained traction when a Facebook page entitiled “The Best Neknominate Videos” popularized the trend of chugging alcohol while performing various stunts and nominating others to do the same. Facebook has disbanded the page, which had 10,000 likes, following Byrne’s death.
Besides teens downing whole bottles of liquor, Neknomination videos also show teens displaying their binge drinking abilities on top of cars, on a horse and in pools. A more extreme one shows a man chugging a beer before biting the head off of an unplucked chicken and eating it.
A U.K. student who shared a Twitter photo of a pint of beer mixed with wine and cocoa powder and topped with marshmallows along with the caption ““#neknominate – what is uni?” says she thinks the game is relatively harmless.
“I genuinely think it's just a bit of fun,” she told the Telegraph. “All the people I know who've done it have done it because they found it funny and didn't feel pressurized at all. If they did, they wouldn't have to do it. It's just a bit of entertainment on boring nights in.”
The “Neknomination” trend has taken several forms. A 20-year-old woman from New Zealand posted a parody video of her 6-year-old brother chugging a bottle of carbonated juice in a Heineken bottle.
Others have decided to turn the social media game into a vehicle for good.
In South Africa, one man who was nominated to partake in the drinking game made a viral video challenging others to perform good works instead of breaking out the beer bong.
“Downing a can of Castle Light is easy... Imagine if we all harnessed the power of social media to make a real difference in peoples lives,” Brent Lindeque wrote on the caption to his YouTube video, which has amassed more than 192,000 views.
“I can’t be sure if it's harmless fun or stupid people doing stupid things, but maybe the only thing you should be nominating when you have a beer in your hand is a designated driver?” he added on his blog.