Two weekends ago, I’m Shmacked spent a few days at UGA. The lucky Shmackees of Thursday through Saturday know that I’m Shmacked is a duo who travel
s around the country, visiting college towns and recording the wild parties that ensue. Their videos are infamous for their outrageous content, but Yofray Ray, the videographer, was quoted in the New York Times saying, “I think we are doing something positive for the schools: I have had about 30 kids say they ended up at a school because of my video.”
If these videos are something positive for the schools, then every cheesy Orientation video that schools force their students to sit through must be gifts from God himself; at least those videos cover important aspects of campus life, despite their obviously ideaslistic point of view. From watching a typical I’m Shmacked video, a viewer would probably learn that his school of interest sells shirts and posters with the school’s colors on them. He would also learn that the school’s campus has many distinguishing features, such as trees and brick buildings. It’s insulting to hear Ray say that his videos should make the school proud, because the only true foci of his videos are gratuitous drinking and smoking.
No one can deny that UGA has a party scene, but there are plenty of reasons why it’s still not good to be Shmacked. Everyone from senior fraternity brothers to campus health officials will tell students that if they’re going to drink, they should do it responsibly. But what’s responsible about catching alcohol from three handles as they waterfall into your mouth, all while a camera is rolling? This isn’t just wildly irresponsible—it’s wildly unhealthy. There’s a difference between having a good time and going crazy, and it seems like I’m Shmacked only wants to show its viewers that the students in their videos know how to get inebriated way beyond both of those levels.
Another quote mentioned in the Times article: “You can’t be considered an alcoholic until after you graduate.” Though this excerpt came from a YouTube comment, there’s some poignancy in it. But it’s not because no one should worry about alcoholism before they leave college—alcoholism can progress from a nagging worry and become a clinical problem over several years, eventually culminating after graduation. People assume that, once college is over, everyone will put away the wine bottles, bongs, and rolling papers, and thus become their parents. But it’s not always easy to walk away from alcohol, especially if the average weekend includes smoking about ten times a day and doing a keg stand before breakfast.
There is no arbitrary amount of alcohol that equates to a drinking problem. Even light and moderate drinking can be harmful when combined with dangerous behavior. Most students who die of alcohol-related causes die not because they drank until their bodies shut down, but because they drank too much and did something unsafe. Penn State made headlines three years ago when a student fell to his death after leaving a frat party alone. His blood alcohol level, though high, was far below average for those admitted into the hospital for alcohol-related sickness. If this is the kind of thing that could happen on a calmer night, imagine what would happen if people took these I’m Shmacked videos as the campus norm for a night on the town.
There’s nothing impressive about being highlighted as one of the wildest colleges in the country. Countless administrators, faculty, and alumni have bragged that UGA is an incredible college, on par with modern-day Ivy League institutions despite its public status. Still, there’s no I’m Shmacked video for MIT and Yale, or even UNC and Vanderbilt. UGA may have an assortment of bars downtown where students can go to have fun, dance, and drink, but everyone has stopped dancing on the tables at Whiskey Bent by the time parents come to tour Athens with their precious children, UGA’s prospective students. These students would do well to remember that an I’m Shmacked video will tar their university’s reputation forever—just look at the first result on YouTube when you search “West Virginia University”.