Alcohol-Fuelled Neknominations Replaced by Feed The Deed Kindness
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What good can come from a dangerous binge drinking game? The popularity of Neknominations, where people post videos with them chugging large amounts of alcohol on social media and daring friends to drink even more, inspired two Toronto friends to put a twist on the viral sensation. Instead of nominating friends to drink liquor, though, they want their peers to do a random act of kindness. The name of this initiative: Feed the Deed.
The two young men at Feed the Deed’s helm are Russell Citron and Josh Stern, both 22. They were inspired to start the chain after watching, separately, a YouTube video of Brent Lindeque. Lindeque got Neknominated, but decided to be a Good Samaritan, rather than chug a beer. The South African stopped at the side of the road and gave a homeless man standing by his car a sandwich, chocolate bar and pop, filming his kind action. More than 500,000 people have watched Lindeque’s video since he posted it on Jan. 31.
“In my head, I just had this idea. Why not bring [Lindeque’s chain] to Canada?” Stern tells Samaritanmag. “It already had some traction going on in South Africa. Why not speed up the process? Come up with something here?”
Although Stern was busy studying for a medical school midterm, the University of Ottawa student says he couldn’t stop thinking about performing an act of kindness after seeing the video. Walking home from his exam on Feb. 3, Stern picked up some sandwiches and gave them to homeless people on the street. He filmed his good deed and posted it on Facebook, alongside the catchphrase #feedthedeed.
Coincidentally, Citron — a childhood friend of Stern’s — watched Lindeque’s act of kindness and had a similar idea in mind. Citron is the head of the non-profit Kindness Counts, which he established to inspire people to be kind in creative ways. The idea of nominating people to commit good deeds went with his organization’s mission.
On the same Monday that Stern picked up sandwiches for some homeless men, Citron bought a cupcake for a random person. He posted a similar video on Facebook, nominating some friends — as well as basketball superstar Lebron James — to be Good Samaritans, too. Minutes later, a close friend called Citron and alerted him to Stern’s posting.
“Immediately I called Josh,” Citron tells Samaritanmag. “There was no point in having two separate chains going on. I thought we should align and make it massive. We both agreed that the goal here is to make the biggest impact possible and inspire people to be kind.”
The friends collaborated, taking the name of Stern’s movement — Feed the Deed — and running it with Citron’s small but growing non-profit. A week after Stern and Citron launched Feed the Deed, they say more than 250 videos with the #feedthedeed hashtag had made it onto social media with the reach multiplying by the hour. Within days of its Feb. 3 launch, it had spread to Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER YOUTUBE #FEEDTHEDEED ELLEN VIDEO:
With their friends paying their good deed forward to three to five friends, Feed the Deed’s reach continues to multiply. To spread the initiative further, Citron asked friends to tag Ellen DeGeneres and The Ellen DeGeneres Show in their messages, hoping to attract national attention.
“The response has been really inspiring,” Citron says. “This guy in my office, Gary, did one. I nominated him. He did a great act of kindness and got a really appreciative, meaningful response back in a thank you email. Just reading that email, it made me realize if this entire Feed the Deed initiative just inspired that one video, if it made one person’s day, the entire thing would be worth it.”
While Neknominations has friends daring each other to behave more irresponsibly, Feed the Deed’s mission is antithetical to that viral sensation. Instead, people want to spread goodness and kindness in their social circles, challenging their friends to spend their time more valuably and give back.
Some of the random acts of kindness featured on the Kindness Counts Facebook page show Citron and Stern’s peers, mainly teens and young adults, helping homeless people in the frigid Ontario winter. Some pick up warm clothes — even buying new Olympic apparel — or bring food and coffee to people on the street. Another popular idea that many are doing is asking friends for “likes” to their Facebook post and paying a small amount of money for each “like” to a worthwhile cause or organization.
“For someone living on the street, you don’t know what they go through,” Ireland’s Allan Mathews — who runs a Facebook page for RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) Nominations, which has a similar mission to Feed the Deed — tells Samaritanmag. “For the homeless, they have thousands of people walking by them every day not giving them anything. Now, all of a sudden, there are people buying them food, clothes, socks, hotels for the night.”
Neknominations are thought to have originated in Australia, where the name comes from “necking,” a slang term for chugging. Much of the buzz around Neknominations grew after two deaths in Ireland were linked to the dangerous fad. The online drinking game has now claimed five lives, all of whom are young adult men, according to the Independent.
The online craze began in January and quickly spread around the world. Fortunately, initiatives to do random acts of kindness as an alternative have spread just as pervasively. Mathews says that within 10 hours of launching the RAK Nominations Facebook page on Feb. 3, the same day Feed the Deed launched, the page had 10,000 likes, mostly from people in Ireland and the U.K.
“We let it grow organically through word-of-mouth,” Mathews says of his online initiative. “It’s only now that it seems to be spreading. People are sending us videos from the U.S. and Canada.”
The quick rise of campaigns like RAK Nominations and Feed the Deed proves the tremendous power of social media. “I think the guy in South Africa was the ultimate global leader in this. [Lindeque] spawned this massive moment,” Stern says. “I’m very happy to see all these projects happening at the same time.”
STORY CONTINUES AFTER JONATHAN ROSENFELD'S NOMINATION VIDEO:
Two different men inspired Citron’s Kindness Counts organization. Its initials are the same as his uncle, Dr. Ken Citron, a noted pediatric psychiatrist who died of cancer in 2004. After his uncle’s death, Citron and his family hosted an annual fundraising event in Ken’s name, giving money to send kids who have undergone major organ transplants to Camp Kivita in Bracebridge, Ontario.
The other motivation behind Kindness Counts is Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. When Citron heard Wiesel speak two years ago, he says a comment the Night author and activist made about helping out disarmed him. When asked what the biggest problem is with the world today, Wiesel responded, “There is too much creativity for evil and not enough creativity for good.”
“He went on to say, at this rate, he fears that in the theoretical battle of good vs. evil, he feared that evil may prevail,” Citron recounts. “And if you think about it, he’s right. It’s insane what people think up to create fear and terror. And no one’s really doing that for good. So I was really inspired. He said we need more creative thinkers for good. And I thought, that is the most true statement I’ve heard. What can I do?”
Citron began Kindness Counts as a Facebook page in April 2012, sharing feel-good stories and reports of random acts of kindness among a small group of friends. As a university student at Western University, under the Kindness Counts banner, Citron ran a “Pay it Forward” initiative. There, a class would receive a special anonymous surprise one Monday, like small chocolate bars for each student, with a message to keep the chain going and do something kind for another class the next Monday.
“I think society views kindness as a very passive concept,” Citron says. “There is some attitude toward being kind now that it’s not the cool thing to do. It’s not fun. In order to really make an impact and get people talking at their dinner tables, you have to be creative and unconventional in the way you address kindness.”
Due to the overwhelming response, Citron says that Kindness Counts may want to brand Feed the Deed as an annual initiative like Movember, with chains beginning every February. “Every Feb. 1, we start a chain with Kindness Counts and see where it goes,” he says of his group’s potential future plans. “Anyone can start their chain around the world.”
Both Citron and Mathews told Samaritanmag that they thought the concept would fizzle out quickly; meanwhile, it is only spreading faster by the day. “It doesn’t seem to be slowing,” Mathews says. “Without social media, this wouldn’t happen. Some people would ask, ‘Why do you have to post it?’ Well, if people didn’t post it, they wouldn’t do it.”
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.