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Neknominating: why it's here and how to end it

By Mal Fletcher - posted Monday, 17 February 2014

A 20 year-old London man has become the latest victim of "neknomination", a dangerous trend which combines extreme drinking with social media exposure to threaten the lives of young adults and teenagers.

Isaac Richardson, who only recently moved to London, downed a deadly cocktail of vodka, beer, whisky and wine. He told friends he wanted to 'outdo' everyone.

Neknomination involves "necking" a quality of alcohol - that is, downing it in one go - often while filming oneself for online social media, then nominating someone else to do the same. Therein lies its greatest threat to young adult culture - the establishment of viral chains built around extreme drinking.


The activity is promoted among teenagers and young adults as a game, but it is dangerous on two levels. I was interviewed today on neknomination by the BBC and my host reported seeing young men only recently "necking" up to two bottles of wine in one shot. If one failed, he would have to start again.

Neknomination's most obvious threat lies in the amounts of alcohol consumed, often by teenagers who are not used to its effects. This week, police in Cardiff are treating the death of a 29 year-old local man as a possible neknomination tragedy. For those who don't die on the spot, extreme drinking will nonetheless represent a mortal danger, as irreparable damage is done to internal organs and substance dependency develops.

The second danger it poses lies in the fact that nominees are often required to perform risky activities while under the influence. Recently, a young Irish man drowned after jumping into a river during a neknomination episode. His family say that he would not normally have gone near water, as it frightened him.

Young adults have always possessed an inbuilt sense of invulnerability. This is probably important to the formation of adult identity. Without at least some experimentation, the testing of one's limits, there is no personal growth or the development of independent decision-making.

Most of us look back on at least some area of behaviour in our youth and wonder how could ever have been so naive, or downright stupidity. Thankfully, most of our adventures (or misadventures), whilst not always life-enhancing, were probably not life-threatening.

Neknomination definitely is. It mixes the natural desire to experiment with a drink-and-dare culture and the potent offer of peer acceptance on a mass scale, to create a recipe for disaster.


Pub drinking games have probably been around for as long as people - and particularly men - have consumed alcohol socially. The social media aspect of neknomination adds something extra.

Social media and risk-taking

Social networking offers young people the opportunity to achieve instant notoriety with their peers, both near and far. When you're still in the process of developing an independent identity, a personal narrative, that's a very attractive prospect - even if the notoriety is short lived.

Social media also provide a cultural bubble for members of the teens-and-20s Millennial generation. They allow a space in which young adults can isolate themselves, cutting out people who don't think like them or who might offer checks and balances when it comes to risky behaviour.

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This article was first published on 2020Plus.

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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