What’s the fatality rate on a meme these days? Nyan Cat – did we ever bring him back from space, or was he left up there to asphyxiate, bug-eyed and gasping, ike Sandra Bullock trying to win an Oscar?
How many adventurers had careers brutally cut short by arrows to the knee? Has a dog mauled anyone yet (so gore, very bloodshed, wow)?
I ask because the #NekNominate hashtag’s just racked up its first two casualties, both in Ireland. 22-year old Ross Cummins died in hospital after drinking too many spirits, while 19-year old Jonny Byrne decided to jump into a river, presumably earning some Facebook
likes and a sad shake of the head from Darwin.
For those of you who don’t know, NekNominations are pretty much what they sound like – if nominated by a friend, you have to down a drink before nominating some people yourself.
It’s reportedly been popular with sports societies for a while, but recently received a massive upsurge in popularity through an Australian Facebook group.
While the original craze was simply to down a pint of beer in an unorthodox fashion, things have escalated faster than a fighter jet strapped to a flight of stairs. Entries went from the disgusting – chugging vodka after biting a dead chicken’s head off or lapping beer out of the toilet – to needlessly cruel – a man who downed live goldfish – to the downright dangerous, such as the guy who set his trousers on fire and dodged firecrackers while downing shots, or the woman who had to be pulled out of another river in Carlow while drunk and dressed in a Batman suit.
The original concept of simply finishing a drink has given way to a new game of one-upsmanship, and to back out is social death (as opposed to the possibility of actual death.)Jonny Byrne’s brother, Patrick, claimed it had morphed into “a bullying competition”, where refusing gets you labeled as “a chicken and a coward.”
Now there are campaigns to scrap the meme entirely, or for the nominated to commit a random act of kindness instead of downing a drink.
For instance, a South African guy gave a homeless man a sandwich and Coke, and another participant bought a random person’s shopping for them at ASDA.
That’s a laudable idea: certainly a better idea than trying to stop the meme, which usually works about as well as kindly asking the sea to move back a few feet.
If buying a stranger’s toilet roll doesn’t appeal to you, then let’s at least aim for moderation. The meme of downing a drink is relatively harmless in itself: mild alcoholism is one of the more vaunted joys of the student experience. But knowing your limits is important.
Besides, it doesn’t take actual danger to make a video entertaining: why not try adding coffee to your concoction instead of bleach, or wear a fancy-dress costume while making your video rather than being on fire at the time? It’s all good!
Death comes for us all eventually, like your mother on a Friday night, but there’s no need to get screwed over early because you were reckless with alcohol, like your mother on a Friday night.
If you get nominated, down what you can handle, as long as it’s not putting your health or anyone else’s at risk.
Then be considerate with your own nomination: don’t throw it on someone who you know won’t want to do it.
Failing that, if you want to skip the whole thing, just wait a few weeks until the #NekNominate craze quietly exits the mainstream like a hipster salmon, and wait for the next meme to turn up.
Maybe the cake’s a lie again or something.