If you log onto Facebook on Sunday morning, you might be likely to see dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of your classmates partying the night before. From the frat party to the bar crawl, drinking is a big part of the culture on many college campuses and recent research suggests that sharing that experience is a cornerstone of how many college students present themselves on social media. But what are the effects of sharing that photo of your killer kegstand? Even with tight security measures, some researchers suggest that social media could have a negative effect on students’ social behaviors.
Cultivating a Party Image
Media experts have found a huge trend in college students sharing photos of binge drinking on their Facebook profiles. One study found that 76.5% of participants’ profiles contained alcohol-related content, including a substantial percentage of underage students (Fournier & Clarke 2011, pg 1). A study on the way students depicted binge drinking on their profiles concluded that “portraying oneself as a drinker is considered by many young people to be a socially desirable component of identity” in the context of social networking (Ridout et al, 2012).
Although there are plenty of arguments against sharing party pictures, especially for young women, some argue that sharing the proof is half the fun. In a 2012 study of young women’s social media use, cultural studies scholars Rebecca Brown and Melissa Gregg found that “The enjoyment derived from sharing the ‘risky’ and ‘regrettable’ experience on Facebook is part of ongoing narratives between girls. Such pleasures, which are increasingly mediated by social networking sites, confound the notion that young women are haunted by inevitable regret and remorse” (Brown & Gregg 2012, pg 357). In other words, many young women are not worried about the effects of sharing risky behavior as sharing is part of the experience itself.
Encouraging Binge Drinking
The depiction of binge drinking on Facebook carries over into real life in different ways. On one hand, it depicts binge drinking as more prevalent than it may really be. Facebook is a space in which people only present what they want others to see and if binge drinking is considered cool, that aspect of campus life gets more attention. On the other hand, depictions of binge drinking on Facebook help to create the idea that binge drinking is a “normal” part of college culture. A 2011 study found “the presence of a significant relationship between alcohol-related content on Facebook and reported alcohol use, and between reported alcohol use and perceived alcohol use of Facebook Friends suggest social networking sites may contribute to perceived drinking norms” (Fournier & Clarke 2011, pg 1).
Real Life Risks
Although binge drinking looks fun in the photos, it has real life consequences. For example, binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive under the influence. They also see an increased risk of violence-related injury, alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, high blood pressure, stroke, or heart disease, liver disease, or neurological damage (CDC 2014). Aside from the physical and emotional risks, binge drinking could cost you thousands of dollars and trouble with the law if you’re caught driving under the influence or underage drinking. So, remember, not only does Facebook offer a heightened, edited version of last night’s party, that kegstand photo could cost you a lot. Your decisions are your responsibility alone. Plus, what if your mom sees it?
Brown, R., & Gregg, M. (2012). The pedagogy of regret: Facebook, binge drinking and young women. Continuum: Journal Of Media & Cultural Studies, 26(3), 357-369
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014) Fact Sheet: Binge Drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm
Fournier, A. K., & Clarke, S. W. (2011). Do College Students use Facebook to Communicate about Alcohol? An Analysis of Student Profile Pages. Cyberpsychology, 5(2), 1-12.
Ridout, B., Campbell, A., & Ellis, L. (2012). ‘Off your Face(book)’: Alcohol in online social identity construction and its relation to problem drinking in university students. Drug & Alcohol Review, 31(1), 20-26.
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