THE relentless rise in the popularity of social media has both positive and negative consequences.
On one hand, it has never been easier to keep in touch with family, friends and business contacts.
And some of the crazes that arise out of social media - such as felfies.com, which has seen Cumbrian young farmers post pictures of themselves at their farms - can be both fun and harmless.
However, social media can also spawn more disturbing trends and a particularly worrying craze is ‘neck and nominate’, which appears to be sweeping South Lakeland. The Facebook trend sees youngsters ‘nominated’ to down strong drinks and then carry out potentially life-threatening stunts.
Local examples include a young Kendal man drinking a pint of cider before leaping from Hawes Bridge at Sedgwick into the icy, fast-flowing river below.
Health leaders, police and rescuers have highlighted the dangers of such stunts. One dubbed river jumps a ‘suicide mission’ while there are warnings that drinking strong alcohol swiftly is dangerous in itself.
Drinking games are nothing new - ask any student - and many adults will recall some daft, drink-fulled things they did as youngsters. The difference then, perhaps, was that the high jinks were only shared and known to a small group of friends and acquaintances.
These days people can post their antics online and so the potential audience is far wider.
That means younger, more vulnerable people can watch dangerous stunts - and might be tempted to follow suit.
The ‘nomination’ side of this craze might also put undue peer pressure on young people to do something with which they are uncomfortable.
Health expert Prof John Ashton said it was important for people not to get caught up in such fashions and they should be their own person and not ‘somebody’s fool’.
That is great advice which might go some way to helping prevent a tragedy in this area.