Social network users are taking it on themselves to combat the dangerous drinking game, writes Niall Kitson.
One of the criticisms I raised about Facebook just prior to its IPO in 2012 that still rings true runs to the character of social media itself is that these networks operate more like countries than businesses.
Take a tour of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Ask.fm, and Twitter and you’ll be impressed by how different usage models create their own cultural norms and vocabularies, shared across millions of users – virtual nation states defined by slang and weak interpersonal ties, made vibrant through babble and novelty.
Unfortunately social networks don’t see it that way and are happier portraying themselves not as countries but as printing presses – tools facilitating the publication of opinion with no responsibility for what opinions are expressed through it.
It’s a commercially expedient argument that puts product above community welfare.
A powerful example of this was illustrated today when Facebook refused to take down a page linked to the Neknomination drinking game, arguing it did not promote self-harm. This is despite the past weekend’s tragedies in Carlow and Dublin where 19-year-old Jonny Byrne and 22-year-old Ross Cummins died after participating in the game.
A victory for company policy over common sense.
Neknominate’s (from ‘neck and nominate’) rules are simple: participants film themselves taking a drink, then perform some kind of physicaly exerting stunt, then nominate some friends to do better. Originating in Australia, the game has found its way to the UK, US, Canada and South Africa.
As a columnist my reaction to Facebook’s decision was to be a twin-pronged attack of decrying its community management procedures followed by a call for better education and awareness of alcohol abuse – admittedly a pat observation.
Then something far more interesting happened - the network’s user base responded and proposed more positive alternatives faster than it could move to issue a statement.
This afternoon I came across a post on Facebook from Cormac McCarthy that sums up many people’s feeling on how the Neknominate craze has gone.
And finally, a great example from South Africa of using a dare to charitable effect.
Niall Kitson is editor of TechCentral.ie