The hashtag is #Neknomination.
It’s a simple premise: friends call you out on social media to chug a beer or hard liquor in a creative and daring way, video it, post it online, and then challenge more of your friends to best your effort within 24 hours.
The craze, popular with youth and young adults across the world, has resulted in the death of at least five people, while countless others have put their health and safety at risk.
I’ve had many friends and even a family member nominated. While consuming alcoholic beverages in and of itself doesn’t have to be harmful, as the injuries and deaths continued to be reported, it became clear it was only a matter of time before people would begin to use social media to speak out against the dangers of this game.
And in true #Neknomination form, it was creativity and peer pressure that helped a new kindness campaign to catch on and spread instead.
Josh Stern, a University of Ottawa medical student, has helped to change the way Canadians are now using the power of peer pressure by founding the #FeedTheDeed campaign, which quickly partnered up with Kindness Counts, a Toronto-based non-profit organization.
Instead of chugging a strong drink, people are now being encouraged to video themselves doing a good deed, and then challenge more of their friends to do the same.
In a video that changed the game, Brent Lindeque of South Africa inspired Stern, when he gave lunch to a homeless man instead of chugging booze when he was nominated in late January.
“I think the most important part is when people are videotaping themselves and then calling on others. It’s giving some extra motivation for the next person to get out and actually do the good deed,” Stern said.
With most of the emerging generation online and using social media in some form, a new message and a simple change of hashtag was all that was needed to spread the kindness.
“When they see it on video, it’s kind of like showing them it’s socially acceptable to do a good deed,” he said. “And, when so many people see their friends doing it, I really think it encourages them further to get out and do good deeds.”
While the campaign is continuing to have a positive impact on the actions of others, some say they hope #FeedTheDeed will have a strong influence on the why behind doing a good deed.
Stephen Shedletzky of InspirAction, a Toronto-based coaching and leadership training organization, said he hopes people complete the good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, rather than for the online praise and attention.
“My biggest fear is we will stop doing good for others, if we don’t get rewarded,” Shedletzky said.
“All I’m saying, though, is that, if we really, truly care about kindness and spreading good, it’s a commitment that each one of us has to make every single day. Otherwise, it’s just going to be a fad,” he cautioned.
Shedletzky, who also supports the #FeedTheDeed campaign, said he recognizes we are a social species that uses our technology to connect, which is exactly what happened during the annual Mitzvah Day activities on February 9, when hundreds of people in Ottawa’s Jewish community reached out to do good deeds (mitzvahs). Technology is a now an essential tool for connecting, learning and influencing others.
Mitzvah Day organizers used a website and an online sign-up process and #FeedTheDeed uses hashtags and videos. But what makes people want to participate is the good feeling they get, no question.
“Obviously, it’s important to do good deeds in your daily life, and you don’t need to videotape yourself doing a good deed for it to be an act of kindness,” Stern said. “The whole point of #FeedTheDeed is to inspire people to bring acts of kindness to their daily lives.
You have now been called out. You have 24 hours to do a good deed for some