*The following opinions are completely my own*
So by now I’m sure everyone has heard of the popular drinking game ‘Neknomination’. It has been trending on Facebook in the past few weeks, and has been all over the news in light of the tragic deaths of Ross Cummins and Jonny Byrne. Since the untimely deaths of the young Irish boys, people have taken to various social media outlets blaming the Neknomination game for the two boys tragic deaths. The game involves someone being tagged/nominated to post a video of themselves downing a pint of beer, or other form of alcohol, within 24 hours of being neknominated. When they have completed this they then nominate two or more of their friends to do the same.
Now I am in no way going to say that the deaths of these two young men are not the tragedy that they are. Both were popular guys with loving families and bright futures ahead of them. They did however make a very silly mistake that ended up costing them their lives. The Neknomination tag is just another game that promotes binge drinking. It is a silly concept that makes it look like alcohol has no consequences. However, Nekominations are no different to any other drinking game. No one is forced to accept the challenge, they can very simply ignore the tag or say no to it. I don’t promote Neknominations in any way, but at the same time I don’t think it is fair to entirely blame the tag for what young people are doing. Binge drinking is a problem, it has been for a long time but Neknominations if taken off the internet, will just be replaced by something similar.
At the end of the day people make their own choices. If a person chooses to accept a Neknomination tag and is silly enough to down a pint of beer, whiskey or vodka then that is their own choice, and they must accept the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately for Ross and Jonnny, the consequence was the early ending of their lives. It was their decision, no one elses to do what they did. It is the harsh reality of the situation and may be hard to hear, but in the end the two young men made the decision to drink irresponsibly. I am in no way saying they deserved to die, what happened to them was a tragedy that has shaken the country. They made a mistake and my heart goes out to their friends and family. However we must realise that the Neknomination tag was not solely responsible.
Alcohol is fun if consumed responsibly, people seem to be forgetting that fact. Not everyone enjoys it but for those who do it is not a crime to drink. One beer will very rarely do anyone any harm. The Neknomination game was most likely created in light of this fact. It never set out to harm anyone, it was simply created as an optional fun thing to do. It doesn’t tell people to jump off a bridge, it doesn’t tell people to drink so much that they become seriously ill, it simply says to chug down a pint of beer or your alcohol of choice and film it. It has been put out there as a game and if you don’t want to play then no one is going to force you to take part.
I know people are going around saying that peer pressure forces people into playing the game. Yes, that may be a factor into why people play the game, but we having been teaching our children for years that in life, you make your own choices and deal with the good and the bad that comes with them. Some people will bend to peer pressure in an effort to fit in, we all do it sometimes, but we should all have the ability to know what can harm us. Throwing up our food to be skinnier will harm us, taking heroin to be “cool” will harm us, downing a pint of vodka will harm us and jumping from a bridge will harm us. Everyone goes through these choices knowing what could potentially go wrong, and so they must decide if the consequences are worth it. Now I don’t think Jonny Byrne knew that in his drunken state, he would jump off a bridge and drown, but I believe he knew what he was doing could seriously harm him. He probably thought that the worst that could happen was he would need his stomach pumped or would get a cold from being in he cold water. Jonny couldn’t possibly have foreseen this and neither could the person that neknominated him, or the creators of the tag. Fun things can turn out to have terrible consequences that no one even considered. Blaming Neknominations for the deaths of these two young men however wont bring them back and it wont stop people from making similar mistakes.
If it happened to someone I loved, of course I would be angry and upset, and want to have someone to take the blame. However I know that Neknominations doesn’t force people to take part, it doesn’t set out to hurt people and it doesn’t control the decisions people make. It was simply the catalyst that unknowingly led to the tragic deaths of two young boys who were just trying to have fun but took it too far. They unfortunately made a fatal mistake. Everyone makes mistakes but most of the time we get to stick around to fix them.
Binge drinking shouldn’t be encouraged but Neknomonations are just a very small part of the problem. Our culture makes it look like something to be proud of and that, is what is truly to blame. Our mindsets need to change before more tragedies like this happen. Thousands of people have died because of binge drinking and they will keep dying until society sees binge drinking as something to be ashamed of instead of cool. Alcohol is something that should be enjoyed responsibly but it is knowledge that will help us achieve that. So go out tonight and have a beer with your friends, but when you start going for your fourth or fifth just remember the choice you are making.
RIP Jonny Byrne and Ross Cummins. Your lives were tragically cut short but you friends and family will make sure you are never forgotten.