A Dangerous Game: Drinking and Social Media

(Posted March 3, 2014)

Dan Cook-Huffman, assistant dean of students. Photography by Kelly Russo '14.

Neknominate, a new social media drinking game, has swept through the world's colleges and universities. The game consists of drinking and then nominating four friends to beat your speed in 24 hours on Facebook or Youtube. Currently, there have been five deaths, all under the age of 30, associated with this game. Dan Cook-Huffman, assistant dean of students, discusses the impact of the game.

Q: Have you ever heard about the drinking game called Neknominated?

A: In the last few days I read articles on the Internet about it. I have not heard anything about that happening at Juniata. I hope that is not something we are doing at Juniata. I understand there is a phenomenon they believe it started in Australia. One of the articles I read was from a doctor in England who said she believes that Facebook also needs to take some responsibility for this. If they are allowing this to be posted on their site, they are contributing to the problem. They should have policy against it.

Q: Do you think the media has influenced this behavior in the society?

A: I do think so. Social media is part of the mainstream media now, and it makes this game seems funny. The whole premise of this game is the idea of "this is fun."

Q: Have you see increasingly the alcohol consumption in the campus in the last years?

A: Actually, I don't know. But I do know that we have been taking some very specific strategies to address alcohol consumption on campus. We try to give the message to students that it is not really sexy be drunk and stupid. It is not that exciting. I think in some ways, the dangerous drinking has decreased, but it is very hard to detect. In the last few years, we have had a slow increase of hospitalizations for alcohol but that may be because our program is creating general awareness for when students drink too much their friends take them to the hospital instead of putting them to bed. This is a good thing. That does not mean there is more drinking, but it may mean more awareness of dangerous drinking. It is very hard to measure what is happening, awareness or actual consumption of alcohol.

Q: Do you think there is an effective way to control alcohol consumption?

A: I think a lot has to do with having a positive peer environment where students feel empowered to intervene with their friends when they are getting out of control. There is evidence that this generation of college students is less likely to drive drunk or do other dangerous things when they are drinking. There is more awareness in society to support positive peer environments where students are encouraged to take responsibility for one another and to moderate their consumption of alcohol.

Q: Who do you think is the most influential for students, family, friends or the media?

A: I think peers. Friends are definitely the most influential to students' drinking habits. There is research that shows that for a long time, people believed that parents and family have the most influence over children, but now it says peers are the ones who influence your habits. Who has more power, friends or parents? I think friends have the power to influence you.

Kate Tobar, Juniata Online Journalist.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.