Darwin Sodhi has dealt with underage drinking for two years. It’s part of his job as a residence adviser at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
But this year Sodhi has to worry about something new: Neknominations.
It’s a drinking game that has gone viral online with international reach. Students film themselves chugging dangerous amounts of alcohol while performing stunts, and then dare their friends to do the same using social media platforms like Facebook.
“At UTSC, Neknominations are considered a drinking game, and it is totally banned on residence,” Sodhi said. “Any time someone is caught filming one on residence, they automatically get an incident report.”
According to international media reports, several people have died after completing their Neknomination videos.
“Some people who are doing these Neknominations are very inexperienced with the level of alcohol they can drink and what drinks are supposed to be mixed with other drinks,” Sodhi said. “That’s where the fatalities are coming from.”
The drinking game is not just a concern in Toronto’s university dorms. According to Ramna Safeer, student trustee for the Toronto District School Board, Neknominations and their consequences have been discussed numerous times at recent board meetings.
“The fact that they are online right now is a huge problem,” Safeer said. “Students need to realize that once you put something on the Internet it is permanent.”
Despite the reported links of deaths to Neknominations, Facebook has so far continued to allow the videos. A search on Facebook yields several pages with thousands of likes.
“I am for all the free speech in the world,” said Sanat Sethi, a UTSC senior residence adviser. “But I think at a certain point you have to discourage this kind of stupidity.”
It all boils down to peer pressure, Safeer said.
“Neknominations are the epitome of peer pressuring people into underage drinking and overdrinking,” she said. “It is extremely disappointing.”
Students in leadership positions and teachers can help keep people safe from the online drinking game, Safeer said.
They can “tell [students] that they shouldn’t put anything like this on the Internet, that it’s really dangerous and what can happen,” she said. “We all have a role to play in trying to fix this issue.”