A participant records a video of himself drinking (in an extreme-sport kind of way) and posts it to social media. He then nominates a friend to top what he’s just done. The friend has 24 hours to complete the challenge. If the friend’s contribution, according to the original poster, isn’t as impressive, he or she is ridiculed, cyberbullied, and shamed on social media. Dares have included drinking liquor laced with cleaning products and drinking while surfing, skateboarding, and other dangerous activities.

According to the Telegraph, the game originated in Australia and gained popularity through a Facebook page that’s now disbanded. At the time it was removed, it had 10,000 likes.

NekNomination’s Deadly Results
This one-upmanship isn’t all about fun; it has had deadly results. In the case of 20-year-old Bradley Eames, whose nomination video showed him drinking two pints of gin with teabags, his desire to top his friend led to his death. His video shows him drinking 30 shots in two minutes.

The danger is in not recognizing the danger. As Dr. Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser for Drinkaware, says, “The point about alcohol is that it affects your ability to recognize that you’re in danger, and it absolutely affects your ability to react to danger. So we have a double whammy.”

What This Means for the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heavy drinking and binge drinking account for about 88,000 deaths per year. That makes excessive drinking the third largest “lifestyle” killer in the country. If you add in this new trend in peer pressure, the U.S. could see even more occurring.

All 50 states have laws against cyberbullying, but that doesn’t safeguard this sort of calling out on social media from happening. It merely makes it prosecutable when it does.

While NekNomination is just starting to gain popularity in this country, particularly among college students, there are plenty of television-inspired drinking games and apps being used. Apps for devices ranging from the new iPhones to the BlackBerry can even help in determining blood alcohol content.

What’s Being Done?
A “Ban Neknomination” Facebook page surfaced in February to raise awareness behind this growing epidemic of social media drinking games. There have also been several “NekNomination for good” campaigns, like this video posted to YouTube, which currently has nearly 750,000 views. In it, the creator Brent Lindeque calls for using the power behind social media to make a (positive) difference in people’s lives.

Legislators in England and Wales urge Facebook and Twitter to post warnings about the danger of social media drinking games. Facebook released a statement, “We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but behavior which some people may find offensive or controversial is not always necessarily against our rules. We encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules so we can review and take action on a case by case basis.”

There are many NekNomination Facebook pages and the perils of this popular drinking game continue. Many feel Facebook and Twitter aren’t doing enough by simply hiding behind their rules and promising to handle it on a case-by-case basis.

These social media drinking games are becoming increasingly challenging and impossibly hazardous. The participants are cyberbullied if they don’t perform or don’t perform well. Raising awareness behind this deadly activity and talking to your children about the dangers of drinking games is a good start to combatting this new and potentially deadly form of peer pressure.