BY KAREN SEIDMAN
Students everywhere have managed to turn a dangerous and deadly viral drinking game into random acts of kindness that have become infectious on university campuses.
They have gone from self-destruction to self-improvement, from drinking upside down out of a toilet to handing out sandwiches and mittens to homeless people.
It is a transformation that university officials have been relieved to see, as many students have chosen to ignore the binge drinking competitions known as “Neknominations” and opted instead to use social media to spread acts of kindness known as Feed the Deed.
“It is definitely a positive alternative,” said André Costopoulos, dean of students at McGill University, where he said Neknominations spread through the residences quickly but were adroitly addressed by staff there. “There were no real issues at McGill, just a couple of minor incidents (related to Neknominations).”
He said the university tried to deal with the issue by offering a supportive environment and mentoring students so they could resist the peer pressure to participate, but with Neknominations being fuelled by Facebook posts, it was a dangerous situation that spread briskly.
The “game” involves filming yourself downing large quantities of alcohol and then nominating friends to outdo you. It has led to numerous montages of young men drinking and vomiting, and then doing ridiculous or dangerous things while in a drunken stupor.
There have been at least five deaths related to Neknominations and the game was raging out of control until University of Ottawa medical student Josh Stern saw someone abroad use their nomination for a good deed.
He decided to do the same, and what he labelled Feed the Deed has spread exponentially through Canadian campuses, and worldwide, with Stern estimating that more than 1,000 good deeds were recorded in only a couple of weeks.
Stern then joined with Kindness Counts, which tries to inspire kindness in creative ways among young people, and their Facebook page has become the platform for Feed the Deed.
“After there were some deaths from Neknominations, I could see nothing positive was coming from it,” Stern said.
But when he posted a video of himself giving sandwiches to homeless people, it instantly generated a ton of positive feedback. He nominated three of his friends across the country to do a good deed as well, and it just took off from there.
“It has been extremely rewarding,” Stern said. “Even small acts of kindness can brighten someone’s day. It has been fun seeing all the places it has gone and all the lives that have been touched.”
Now there are Feed the Deed videos going up every day. Students giving out chocolates, donating blood, helping the homeless. There’s one of Montreal singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky baking cookies and handing them out with roses to people on the street for Valentine’s Day.
“Instead of people putting their lives at risk doing something stupid, we decided to turn it into something good,” said McGill management student Corey Greenwald.
His good deed was bringing Tim Hortons coffees to students studying in the McLennan Library at McGill. As social media has enabled Feed the Deed to proliferate rapidly, he aptly describes it as “paying it forward on steroids.”
As Kindness Counts appoints student representatives at different Canadian universities, people like Benjamin Ger at McGill, a first-year arts student, have bought into the idea of Feed the Deed and want to keep it going. (THE GAZETTE)