When the ‘neknominate’ trend reared its boozy head in early 2014, guys who thought themselves too cool to buy into the life-threatening ‘planking’ fad found their path to internet superstardom. It began with Ross Samson, an Irish rugby player (shock) who said on Christmas Day in 2013, “I nominate all of you whose birthday it’s not. Merry Christmas.” With great speed, videos from all over the world flooded the internet ranging from cat-like lapping of beer out of toilet bowls, hot sauce and absinthe cocktails drunk by guys who look like incels, big boys with big muscles and sick snapbacks downing 1L bottles of spirits in succession to just your generic, pretty nice guy who doesn’t mind some peer pressure and brief social capital skolling a VB, winking at the camera and neknominating one of his other harmless, nice mates. There was a quaint novelty about these videos, and the absurd creativity was at times, endearing and other times, evoked the same sadistic satisfaction one might feel watching insipid contestants on the plethora of derivative dating shows like Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle.
A few deaths later, the internet subsumed these cyber curios of creativity and buried them alongside other early-death trends like the Kylie Jenner lip challenge, Harlem Shake and coneing, never (so we thought) to be seen again. Thinking back on said trends and others, can be quite heart-warming. In the moment, you either hate or love them and the extremity of the emotion is strange but uncontrollable. From an objective lens, years later, the actual totality of the trend adopts a hazy constitution, and they possess the same kitsch identity as balloon animals and origami fortune tellers. Very rarely however, do these sorts of trends re-emerge because these are, by their nature, transient and achieve their success because of how very insignificant, farcical and non-transcendent they are. When they do re-emerge however, they are like ghoulish before and after photos of child-celebrities-cum-rehab-heroes, they are scary and saddening to confront.
Amidst the array of bland, COVID-19 induced social media trends like Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video, banana-bread and sourdough bread connoisseurs, and dumb influencers trying to stay relevant with pointless Earth Day content, AB workouts and really shit line drawings they call ‘art’, one of the worst is the rise of a neo-neknominate trend that ranges from photos of people (mostly men) playing footy (in its various manifestations), and drinking beer. I will caveat this first by saying that the few posts augmented with donations to mental health organisations like Beyond Blue and other charities can be exempted though these are few and far between.
I mainly speak here about the weeks of posts that emerged before these philanthropic-associated ones, though I wager that the underlying self-interest is intrinsic to all of them. In 2014, I was 17 and herd mentality at such an age was not something that was necessarily surprising; I would go further and say that it was the norm. Six years later though, I really struggle to understand what value-add photos of the distorted faces of guys playing sport or drinking beer possess. For one, can these posts be anything other than to fan the egos of said footy kings who must really be struggling because they can’t post Instagram stories of their saucer-eyed mates at clubs or uninspired photos of sunset rays kissing the glass of their half-full beer’s bottles with the hashtag #living? Is their hunger for social capital so insatiate that their only resort is to do this?
I know it’s a bit of fun and relatively harmless and writing an article about it is equally as stupid and might render me more unhinged and attention-seeking than the people I write about. Regardless, the pandemic has brought out the worst in a lot of people and social media trends like these instantiate the desperate and attention-seeking nature of our society. At a time when our ability to engage meaningfully with others is severely hampered, is this really the best way to do so? It’s fine and understandable to miss things that formed major parts of our lives, but are posting photos of scrawny biceps and beer that everyone drinks really helping anyone? No-one really cares whether you play beer-pong via Zoom, play a below-average grade of rugby or AFL, and if you travelled last year to some generic country that is probably loving not having people like you staining its streets.
Most of us lock away positive memories and return to them when times are tough. On occasion, we discuss them with other people when a certain experience spurs our nostalgia. Forcing them down our throats because you’re isolated and bored isn’t such an experience. Rather, I think it would be best to keep these photos on your ‘Close Friends’ story, in your group chats, on your Zoom meetings and in your own minds, because no one wants to be reminded of forgotten trends, especially those that were forgotten because they were vapid and stupid in the first place.