You’re out with friends to celebrate the weekend. As you settle into your seats at your local bar the waitress brings over the first round of drinks. You can’t wait to take that first sip of the weekend but first, you simply must take a selfie. #weekend. #thirstay. #turntup.
It’s normal to want to let loose a bit on the weekends and with social sharing becoming increasingly popular you can now share every minute of it via social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. However, a recent study reveals the correlation between your alcohol selfies and the threat of alcohol abuse, and how we might be able to identify problem drinking before it gets out of hand.
The study, directed by North Carolina State University and Ohio University states that having an “alcohol identity” via social networking sites puts college students at greater risk for alcohol abuse.
“We started this project with a threshold question: what drives students to drink and post about alcohol on SNSs,” says Charee Thompson, an assistant professor of communication studies at Ohio University and co-lead author of the study.
The study included a group of 364 undergraduate students at a Midwestern university. All participants were over the age of 18, had an active profile on either Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and reported having consumed at least one drink in the last month.
“This work underscores the central role that social networking sites… play in helping students coordinate, advertise, and facilitate their drinking experiences,” said Lynsey Romo, assistant professor of communication studies at Ohio University and co-author of the study.
“The study also indicates that students who are at risk of having drinking problems can be identified through [social media].”
“The strongest predictor of both drinking alcohol and posting about it on SNSs was espousing an alcohol identity – meaning that the individuals considered drinking a part of who they are,” Thompson says. “And those two behaviors were associated with alcohol problems – such as missing school or work, or getting into fights – because of drinking.”
Researchers also found that sharing photos of drinking is actually a stronger predictor of alcohol abuse than simply having a drink. “This might be because posting about alcohol use strengthens a student’s ties to a drinking culture, which encourages more drinking, which could lead to problems,” Thompson says.
“We’re hopeful that these findings can aid policymakers in developing interventions to target the most at-risk populations — particularly students with strong alcohol identities,” said Romo. “Social media may help identify those students. For example, colleges could train student leaders and others in administrative positions to scan [social media] for text and photos that may indicate alcohol problems.”