“I’m Shmacked” Videos Create Hype About College Party Life

By Charlotte Holley • October 8, 2012 at 12:03 am



Beer Pong Setup

Typical beer pong setup. | Photo courtesy of BeerPong-Champ via Wikimedia Commons

In 2009, rapper Asher Roth told us why he loved college. A year later, Boston’s own Sammy Adams decided that even though he hated college, maybe the parties and girls weren’t so bad. In 2011, the film Project X gave us a home-movie style look at an out-of-control house party that seemed like perhaps the coolest thing to ever happen to three nerdy high school seniors.

Now here we are in 2012, and for the past ten months, Arya Toufanian, 20, and Jeffrie Ray, 19, of YouTube video sensation “I’m Shmacked,” have been providing us with yet another look at the party scene of the 18+ crowd. Urban Dictionary defines being shmacked as being “intoxicated to the point of not even being able to stand up, know what’s going on, or correctly pronounce any word.”

A recent article by New York Times reporter Jennifer Conlin recognized the dustup caused by these videos, which try to convey the “crazy party life” of students on various college campuses. These videos portray countless scenes of beer pong, scantily clad girls, blunts and joints, Bacardi being poured off decks and into mouths, and other vignettes reminiscent of ’90s rap videos, even though there is a disclaimer below each video that reads “No alcohol or illegal substance is used during the filming, just prop.”

The videos do not forget to add a few campus shots, thread in some cool music, and of course flash the school’s logo. Acting as somewhat of an unauthorized advertisement, “I’m Shmacked” has profiled campuses all around the country, including University of California at Santa Barbara, Ithaca College, Penn State, University of Michigan, Tulane University, and many others.

These videos, which have over five million views on YouTube, have indeed faced criticism, not only from the underage drinking-intolerant universities themselves, but also from students. Some maintain that the videos glorify binge drinking and belittle the consequences of this “go hard” mentality, consequences from balancing a nasty hangover with a chemistry exam to trying to deal with unflattering Facebook photos—potential dealbreakers when trying to snag internships and jobs.

In Febrary 2012, “I’m Shmacked” faced opposition on the high school level. A video surfaced on the duo’s YouTube channel that featured students from Lower Merion High School participating in the activities seen in the college videos, such as binge drinking and drug use. Parents were notified by school district officials, and the video was ordered to be taken down. The story made it onto the local NBC news in Philadelphia and, when approached about the situation by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Arya Toufanian maintained that no real alcohol or drugs were used in filming and was unapologetic of the situation.

When I interviewed Toufanian regarding the “I’m Shmacked” college series, he stated that, “The videos are to raise awareness…and display an accurate representation of the party life, while a giving a taste of the campus of the university at hand.” Although he refused to give an opinion on the binge-drinking culture that has popped up on college campuses, when asked about the criticism he and his partner have faced for making these videos, Toufanian claimed, “There has been some backlash…I try not to concern myself with it. It would be naive of a university to not have me on their campus…either way it is filling up classrooms.”

Toufanian might not be far from the mark in saying that the videos have a strong impact on students narrowing down where they want to go to school, since they’re choosing how they want their college experience to be. For some students, the depiction of campus party life may play a large role in these decisions.

When looking at the 48,774 Facebook likes that “I’m Shmacked” has garnered, it is reasonable to wonder what has motivated so many people to click the thumbs-up button. Mack Biester, a freshman this fall at University of California at Santa Barbara, told me that when he saw the video, “It just made me more excited to leave for school.” Gavin Smith, a student at University of Iowa, explained, “I’m just waiting for when they come to my school…I like the videos because they give high school kids a view of what they’re getting into.” In addition to the undercurrent of excitement that the “I’m Shmacked” videos have evoked in some college students, they have also created a sense of competition among some schools. Some students have been inspired to create trailer videos, to “out-party” one another, in order to persuade “I’m Shmacked” to come to their university.

Toufanian defended his videos during our interview, saying, “We didn’t invent alcohol, nor do we provide anyone with any alcohol.” While this may be true, “I’m Shmacked” does perhaps give a face to the statistics regarding college drinking. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “drinking by college students aged 18 to 24 contributes to an estimated 1,825 student deaths, 599,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape each year.”

While it is perhaps easier to brush these numbers off, it is difficult to ignore the social toll that college drinking takes on students in today’s culture. The existence of networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram make it harder and harder for young people to separate their professional and personal lives. Drunken pictures from Saturday night circulate throughout the Internet—often without the knowledge of those posing with the red Solo cup—for all to see on Monday.

When Asher Roth cheekily raps, “I can’t tell you what I learned from school but/I could tell you a story or two,” and assures us that, “time isn’t wasted/when you’re getting wasted,” should we consider if that’s all we want as students from our college experience. While it may be fun to sing along, toss back shot after shot, and scream our school pride into a camera, we have to wonder if we are being provided with a false sense of fun and cool, one that leaves out the physical and metaphorical hangover. We must ask ourselves, is it enough to have a few crazy weekend anecdotes, or is it time to start listening to a different song?


Charlotte hails from Portland, OR and Chicago, IL. She is a Journalism major, minoring in Women, Gender & Sexuality studies. She is a passionate feminist, spoken word poet, and can do a startlingly convincing baby cry.



Responses

  1. If you believe you future will capsize by being in a YouTube video for .5 seconds you have bigger issues than being caught on a camera.

    • Brianna Stark

      ‘.5 seconds’ of inappropriate, irresponsible, and illegal footage could be just enough time to do damage-even if only for the short term. Your videos perpetuate a negative stereotype of my generation’s behavior and the fact that you belittle your own impact on this stereotype says a lot about your character, Jeffrie.

      • You’re looking down upon these videos because you claim that all of these negative consequences could possibly happen. Obviously it could happen anything could happen but the thing is you have zero history or evidence of prior instances of these things occurring to prove it has and in fact will happen…No bad effects have taken place nor do I believe deserve to in response to one appearing in this documentary, All you’re doing is looking for the worst case scenario in the situation and giving undeserved credibility to the odds of it actually happening. Do you think an employer is going to spend their afternoon clicking through videos on youtube in efforts to identify current job prospects doing inappropriate, irresponsible, or illegal things during the short, challenging and stressful few years they were given to further their education, to construct a plan for their futures and to get an idea of what it is in life that they want to pursue? An individual’s behavior in the four years they are for the first time truly learning how to become a young, responsible and successful adult certainly does not reflect that of the individual’s talents, personal attributes or intelligence. Our videos display an extremely accurate depiction of what a glimpse into college life for a portion of students at these schools is like, Our work is providing virtual tours of the various campuses that belong to the best institutions in the country for people all over the world to see and Our company is impacting young teenagers in a positive way by encouraging them to perform at a higher level in high school so that they too can earn the privilege to attend one the hundreds of phenomenal universities that we have here in the United States. The partying is going take place whether or not we are there to document it. This is the age of technology, in 100 years people will ask “I wonder what was the experience for a young adult at an american collegein the 21st century was like?” I think I may have an idea what they might be watching.

    • Brianna Stark

      I agree with you!
      That .5 seconds of portrayal should not define one individual’s intelligence or talent. But it does. It says something about their decision making skills.
      Why can’t you party and have fun for yourself and not for your Facebook friends? Why does partying need to be a show for all to see? Why is it so important that you pose with that red solo cup or get filmed doing a keg stand?
      College is stressful. A release of stress is healthy and absolutely going to happen. Partying is inevitable and it isn’t wrong when done responsibly.
      But your videos promote the idea that posing for the camera and making a show of drinking and partying (usually underage) is acceptable. It isn’t acceptable. It isn’t beneficial. It promotes immature behavior and the idea that individuals need to party to have the ‘college experience’.
      You are not providing anything positive to young teenagers by displaying bong hits and girl-on-girl spectacles. By doing this you are adding to a negative stereotype of young adults in the United States.
      If these videos define life for a young adult today then something needs to be done in order to change the narrative of our generation.

  2. Also the high school video was shot my senior year of high school which was in 2011 and it was the inspiration for the college movie. Should of done a better job with the interviewing, Charlotte.

  3. Joe K

    Sorry Jeffrie. You are trying to make your case and I respect that. Your long response to Brianna shows considerable immaturity though. That’s not meant as an insult since you are still young; you just have a lot to learn.

    I am a bit older and am an employer. My peers and I ABSOLUTELY look online for clues that will help us make hiring decisions (in the same way your insurance company will go crazy on your rates if they see a DUI from just one crazy night.)

    We look for good and bad information; they tell us about a potential candidates judgement. Did they drink in college (or worse, high school). Maybe. Did they get drunk and allow someone to shoot and post video? Much, much worse.

    The job market is tough for most people. Your subjects are hurting themselves and you are hurting them too by exposing/publicizing them at their worst.

    Given a final choice between two candidates, employers will ALWAYS choose the one with no “story.” With videos like yours, the potential is there to keep someone from getting the job they want unless they are well more qualified than other applicants. Even then, some conservative employers would still think twice before hiring.