Necknomination, the social media game in which generally young, dumb, and evidently painfully insecure people film themselves drinking large amounts of alcohol in one or a few gulps (necking it) in sometimes strange or embarrassing circumstances has come to Thailand. The man below, who I believe to be Australian (it was in the land of Oz that this game apparently was created) apparently drank 20 shots of some spirit followed by a beer in a bar beer centre in January. He then, in line with necknomination’s rules, nominates some of his friends so that they too will do something similarly stupid, dangerous, or outrageous.
Not surprisingly it wasn’t Thai people playing this game when it came to Thailand. The kind of macho angle – the penis seems to play a part in many of the nominations – doesn’t quite fit with what you could call mainstream Thai male character traits, or gender roles. Thailand’s conservatism, you could say it’s merely developing, not developed culture, is probably not ready for this modern drinking game. No doubt though that this corollary of western hedonism and celebration of idiocy has made its way into International schools. This western decadence, often maintained by over-indulgence, or seeming lack of ethics, is fashionable in the west. The unruly dumb daredevil, tattooed as a result of his fortunes rather than misfortunes, the pseudo punk, is the televisible man of the hour. The cultural goon, the spectre of an anti-book cult, this is the man, the jackass, the idiot who never grows up, that currently represents the fashion of masculinity.
Maybe the fashionable man is not always a goon, as beat-up looking as the man above, but he is nonetheless, always stupid. The reality show is where this kind of man, along with his equally repellent consort, display their vulgar and at times mildly fascinating behaviour. Though because it’s reality, the acting is really terrible, and the characters are not believable. That doesn’t matter, because they are exploitable. We are not here to watch them act, we are here to behold and mock their suffering. Welcome to the era of toilet television, where you watch people cry, get beaten up, and take a shit. It’s because of this very weak claim to fame that people desire, and the wicked opportunity that TV offers to placate these desires, that YouTube and social media is to TV what a posh wank is to having sex. We can all get some.
One downside to the necknomination game is death. A few young men have collapsed and died, including an Irish man that died last month. Taken to its logical conclusion, in this era of exploitation, the best thing you can do is die. It’s the best trick of all. We, the audience, do we secretly crave death? YouTube, the modern amphitheatre, is where we can legally watch people die, or at least puke, or break their skull. And like lambs to the slaughter, we turn the camera on ourselves.
There is of course some comic relief in watching someone neck a litre of vodka, and fall over, but I wonder if after we’ve grown use to this sight how easily we’ll bore of the trite spectacle and need to see people suffer just a little more, in stranger ways, maybe even break a neck? How far will the actors be willing to go in order to relieve themselves of others’ approval? Necknomination, while it evidently makes people laugh and attracts viewers, is a sad indictment of the decline of western culture. We, the players, debase ourselves – holding a not quite believable smile – for each other and pay for the privilege. How much we demand attention and how much attention we demand does in some way rest on how much attention we are offered. Facebook deepened that lake in which narcissism first discovered itself, and in the last decade the frailty of the human soul has become terrifyingly apparent. Have we ever been so obviously enslaved, so openly chained to our desires and fears? Our state so weak, our confidence so tenuous, that we are willing to risk death to gain approval of the dysfunctional, impossible to please crowd. With that said, I nominate YOU to turn off this computer.