For anyone who’s logged on to Facebook in the last month, the word Neknominate is likely to conjure up images of excessive alcohol consumption and increasingly ridiculous stunts.

For those of you who haven’t heard about the latest (idiotic) craze to hit our newsfeeds, Neknominate originated several years ago in the UK where it was called #neckandnominate and remained quite a low key trend. But it really took off as #neknominate in Australia earlier this year. Both versions involve people filming themselves downing one or more drinks, often while carrying out a dare. Interestingly enough, the Australian version is what is now behind the growing trend around the globe – including the UK where the idea was born.

Once they’ve completed the challenge, the participants “Neknominate” their friends to do the same and the videos are posted online, usually on Facebook.

Despite its obvious stupidity, more and more people have been getting involved in Neknominate. The challenges have escalated, with nominees often attempting to outdo the nominator, sometimes with tragic consequences. So far, five deaths have been attributed to the game.

Because Facebook is mostly a private network, posts containing Neknominations can’t be tracked. However, over 67,000 tweets and 11,400 YouTube videos have been posted since 1st January 2014 (from virtually zero mentions before 2014). Tweets connected to UK accounts have amounted to over 15,800. So we decided to analyse these mentions, focusing on the trend’s growth over time, geography and the emergence of anti-Neknominate campaigns.

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As the graph shows, the game was almost exclusively Australian for the first two weeks of January, after which it began to spread further afield via social to the UK, US and Ireland.

By the end of January, Australian volumes were dwindling, but volumes in the UK continued to grow. During the week beginning on the 28th January, the UK accounted for 69% of Neknominate conversations, while only 5% of mentions came from Australia, 11% from Ireland and 5% from USA. Britain is often criticised for its heavy drinking culture, and the popularity of Neknominate in the UK, particularly relative to other countries, certainly does nothing to counter that perception.

That said, there has been a certain amount of backlash against the trend, with various influential accounts discouraging the game, as well as the emergence of anti-Neknominate campaigns, such as #DonateNominate – which encourages nominees to turn their Neknomination into a good deed. Between 1st January and the 11th February, the #DonateNominate hashtag was used 461 times.

The figures clearly show that, despite some protest, Neknominate is still a popular topic of online conversation. The vast majority of content shows people drinking extreme and dangerous cocktails of alcohol and other liquids in a quest for likes, retweets and views on social platforms and the temporary thrill which comes with it.

It just goes to show how powerful social media can be in spreading ideas across the world, allowing global trends to develop in a short space of time, no matter how ridiculous they might be…