A notorious drinking game known as Neknominate has swept social media platforms and revitalized discussions about the balance between corporate and individual responsibility. The Neknominate game involves consuming a large quantity of alcohol while being filmed. Once a challenge is completed, the participant must nominate another person to surpass the previous record of consumption. Videos of the Neknominate challenge are posted to social networking websites, including Facebook and YouTube. At present time, sources estimate that at least five men under the age of 30 have died as a result of the dangerous drinking challenge.
In the aftermath of these fatalities, Facebook has been scrutinized for its role in providing a platform for Neknominate. This case is not the first instance where the social media giant has been pressed for greater corporate responsibility. In November 2013, Facebook announced it would amplify its efforts to prevent cyberbullying and harassment on the website by releasing guides and talking points for teens. These measures do not suggest that Facebook has become a policed site, nor should it.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are open forums. They allow their users autonomy. On these sites, individual user responsibility renders additional corporate intervention unnecessary for the most part. Neknominations themselves do not violate the social media sites’ community standards. Facebook’s community policies deem harmful content to be posts that promote world violence, property destruction, vandalism or inflict emotional distress. The Neknominations do not amount to a breach of Facebook’s own policies and, as such, it is the user’s own responsibility to police the content he or she posts.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of the Neknominate situation is that people posting such outlandish videos is not new. The members of today’s generation are obsessed with sharing every aspect of their lives — the good, the bad and the ugly. While sites like Facebook and Twitter are meant for sharing aspects of a user’s life, young adults abuse this privilege by overposting. This abuse has distorted social media, making it less about connection and more about self-promotion, allowing platforms like Facebook to act as the perfect pedestal for games like Neknominate.
Facebook’s status as a public platform suggests that the frequency of these videos will fall along with a falling public opinion. Once the public recognizes the dangerous nature of Neknominations, there will not be any incentive to perpetuate the phenomenon. The responsibility in this situation lies on the shoulders of those producing these videos, not with the corporations that provide their public platform.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 19 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at email@example.com.