Fiona McCade: Making a difference by social media

The mutation of an idiotic drinking game into something more responsible offers a glimmer of hope for the 
internet age, writes Fiona McCade
Neknominate has seen increasingly irresponsible levels of drinking. Colin HattersleyNeknominate has seen increasingly irresponsible levels of drinking. Colin Hattersley
Neknominate has seen increasingly irresponsible levels of drinking. Colin Hattersley

When my brother-in-law was a lad, he was coming back from the pub with some mates when one of them offered him a tenner to jump into the local harbour. He told them where to get off. Then another mate offered him 20 quid to do it. He knocked that back, too. More and more offers came, until he was looking at £150 to throw himself into the icy waters. Still he said, no way. Then came the challenge he couldn’t refuse. It didn’t involve money. The friend simply said: “Go on, jump – 
I dare you.” And that did it. He jumped.

The power of the dare should never be underestimated, especially amongst the young and the dumb, and it is, I believe, the driving force behind one of the stupidest phenomena of recent years, the Neknominate craze.

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When I first heard about Neknominate, my heart sank. Not only because it sounded very stupid indeed, but because I feared it had originated in Scotland. Sadly, I was almost right: it originated with a Scot, but in London.

It is based on an old drinking game which used to be played privately amongst friends but has now, thanks to social media, gone viral. On Christmas Day, Edinburgh-born rugby player Ross Samson posted a video on Facebook, showing himself “necking” an entire bottle of beer in one go. After doing so, he said: “I nominate all of you whose birthday it’s not.”

To thousands of young, dumb people, this was a gauntlet that had to be picked up, especially when a friend of Samson’s added fuel to the fire by calling on Twitter and Facebook users to: “Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don’t break the chain, don’t be a d**k.”

To cut a short story even shorter, 12 weeks on, Neknominators are no longer merely drinking bottles of beer. Some are “necking” increasingly intoxicating brews in increasingly dangerous places. Up in planes, down toilet bowls; clothed and unclothed. The phenomenon has been linked to the deaths of five people in the British Isles alone.

Most sane people would agree that breaking the Neknominate chain is a sure sign of intelligence; quite the opposite of being a “d**k”. Unfortunately, Neknominate is essentially a dare, and as such, cannot be ignored by some sections of the population – most particularly intellectually-challenged males under the age of 30.

However, hope is at hand. At the end of January, Neknominated South African Brent Lindeque refused to play the same old game. “Downing a can of Castle Light is easy,” he said, “Imagine if we all harnessed the power of social media to make a real difference in people’s lives.” So, instead of drinking himself silly, he drove around Johannesburg, handing out food to the homeless. Then he nominated two friends to do the same.

Lindeque wasn’t intimidated by the power of the dare; instead, he dared to be different, and suddenly Neknominate began to mutate into something much more interesting.

This brighter, better version isn’t so much a dare as an inspiration, and it’s called Raknominate, because you create a Random Act of Kindness. Even better, it has now arrived in Scotland.

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Michaela Blair from Selkirk proclaimed that her Raknomination was “Made in Scotland, with LOVE!” She bought flowers, and some warm gloves, made chocolate brownies and put them in a box tied with a ribbon, and presented them all to an elderly lady living nearby, whom she had never taken the time to meet before. She posted the video on YouTube 
and wrote: “We are hoping to start a new trend that spreads far and wide and something beautiful comes out of it!”

I hope so too, because I’m sure that there are many young men and women out there who have received Neknominations and their hearts have sunk. What to do? They don’t actually want to knock back a pint of whisky in the middle of a supermarket wearing nothing but a thong and two balloons, but they feel they have to, or they’ll be laughed out of town. Peer pressure demands that they degrade themselves. Everybody loves a daredevil; nobody loves a wuss. Honour is at stake, but whereas that honour might once have been between a small gang in a pub, now it must be upheld in front of the online world. Fail to stand up and be counted and you won’t just be laughed at by a few mates; you’ll be the butt of derision from Adelaide to Zurich.

The way that Raknominate has evolved from the brainless monster that was Neknominate tells us a lot about ourselves as human beings. On one hand, you have people who would utterly humiliate themselves, and even risk their lives, for the sake of a petty little dare, and on the other, there are those who have the intelligence, energy and creativity to take something stupid and sordid, and change it into something wonderfully worthwhile.

We’re all capable of doing either of these things, we simply have to choose which path we prefer. I’ve always found it sad that something as potentially valuable and positive as social media is so often used for either gazing at our own navels, or – even worse – gazing at other people’s. I think what pleases me as much as anything about the way Neknominate has metamorphosed into Raknominate is the way it started with a Scot, as something desperately dumb, circled the world a few times and came back to Scotland, this time transformed into a ray of hope.

Michaela Blair’s lovely Raknominate will take some beating, but since this game is about making the world a better place, honour demands that I try. I’m rubbish at baking, but perhaps I could simply invite a couple of my senior neighbours for a cup of tea and 
some quality chatting time. But while I’m thinking about what I can do, I nominate you to carry out a Random Act of Kindness. Go on, I dare you.