The drinking game NekNomination, which involves students posting videos of themselves chugging beer or hard liquor, has gone viral across Canada, and universities and high school officials are jumping on social media to warn about the risks of binge drinking.
Officials at both Queen's University and the University of Western Ontario say they are on top of the NekNomination social media wave, which was blamed last week for the death of two youths in Ireland.
Originating in Australia – where "neck" is slang for drink – the online craze, in which participants post a video of themselves online drinking heavily in an unusual situation and then dare or "nominate" someone to do a follow-up guzzle within 24 hours, swiftly swept through Europe and the rest of the world. On Facebook, videos show scantily clad girls drinking in snowbanks, guys swilling liquor in swimming pools or standing half-naked in busy streets. Some images are more disturbing.
From Victoria to Acadia, N.S., students confirmed that friends are lapping up NekNomination. University of Toronto student Max Stern, 19, says the craze has swept the globe. "I've seen friends doing it here and in Europe. It seems to take hold of a region for a few weeks – and then once everyone's done it – moves to a new area."
Magida El Timani, 21, a student at the University of Guelph-Humber, says she saw a video online of a girl she knew from high-school wearing a sports bra and shorts doing snow angels while drinking. "The drinking is something that happens daily in any college around the world, so that aspect doesn't really shock or bother me," she said. "It's that people are doing it half-naked in the freezing cold. They can get sick and die." One of the Irish young people died after jumping into a river intoxicated.
Kate Humphrys, health promotion co-ordinator at Queen's, calls NekNomination "dangerous and concerning" and said online discussions indicate many students say "it makes them uneasy and uncomfortable."
At Western, director of campus police John Carson calls it a "challenging situation" – one that "creates significant peer pressure." Both universities have started campaigns to encourage students to make NekNomination positive – or NiceNomination. Videos are now popping up across Canada and as far away as South Africa of people giving sandwiches, coffee, chocolate bars, and red Olympic mittens to homeless people. Mr. Carson said one Western student posted his visit to the local food bank. Ms. Humphrys said the twitter hashtag #raknomination (for random acts of kindness) at Queen's is gaining momentum.
Isabelle Duchaine, a 22-year-old Queen's history and politics major, said she was NiceNominated this past week when a stranger walked up to her in a campus coffee shop and gave her a chocolate chip muffin. Ms. Duchaine, in turn, gave one to her housemate.
"Hopefully he passes it along," said Ms. Duchaine, who adds that NekNomination videos she has seen show people chugging beer or spirits in a way that is not too different from what goes on at more raucous parties. "Right now, it seems to be a lot of people standing outside drinking in the snow. Drinking games have existed for years, but what's new here is that, with social media, it's so much easier to share. I guess it's like the Harlem Shake of the drinking culture right now."
Meg Sinclair, communications manager for Facebook Canada, said the meme does not violate the company's community standards code. But she urges anti-NekNomination groups to untag or block themselves from conversations to eliminate the risk of being nominated.