Social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram give you a glimpse into all your friends’ most exciting experiences, including those that involve alcohol. Many advertisers and alcohol brands use social media platforms to target audiences and age groups who may buy and consume their products.
The more time you spend on social media sites, the more likely you will become exposed to and influenced by alcohol advertising. Seeing peers who frequently engage in binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption may affect how you perceive alcohol and make you more susceptible to alcohol abuse.
Here’s a closer look at how the influence of social media can affect your perception of alcohol and what to do next if you think you may need help with drug or alcohol addiction.
Are Social Media Users More Likely to Drink Alcohol?
Social media sites are widely used by people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all parts of the world. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the total number of social media users will grow to 3.29 billion users in 2022, more than 42% of the world’s population.
The majority of social media users are young adults. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers found that an estimated 90% of United States adults between 18 and 24 with internet access use social media.
Developers initially created social media to help you stay in touch with your friends and extended family. Some started using it to network professionally and connect people with like-minded interests in other parts of the world. Today, advertisers use social media to influence you to buy and use their products.
Social media users easily influenced by their peers or alcohol advertisers may be more likely to drink alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says peer pressure is a common risk factor for substance use disorders, suggesting that young people who want to fit in may be at high risk of underage drinking and easy targets for alcohol marketing leading to alcohol abuse. Substance abuse can be the outcome.
How Social Networking Sites Promote Drinking
In a 2021 study published in the journal Addiction, researchers learned that young people between the ages of 10 and 15 who used social media regularly were more likely to drink alcohol. They also saw that young people between the ages of 16 and 19 who used social media frequently were more likely to engage in binge drinking.
In another 2021 study conducted by researchers at Loyola Marymount University, Snapchat and Instagram usage linked to higher alcohol abuse rates among college students. Social media gave users the impression that everyone else drank regularly, which influenced their perception of alcohol. The study also revealed that:
- Exposure to alcohol-related Instagram content during the transition into college led to higher rates of risky drinking behavior among male students.
- College students who created secondary Instagram accounts that they hid from parents were more likely to become heavy alcohol users during the first year of college.
- Every 30 minutes of extra daily Snapchat use led to intaking one or more alcoholic beverages per week among male college students.
A countless number of other studies have shown a direct link between social media use and underage drinking. For instance, the University of North Texas and the Health Science Center at Fort Worth discovered that an estimated 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. is by young people between the ages of 12 and 20 and that 90% of those individuals regularly engage in heavy binge drinking episodes.
Another study published in Alcohol Research found that social media sites purposely expose young people to pro-alcohol messages and images that increase the rate of risky drinking behavior.
How Social Media Affects Your Mental Health
Several studies have evaluated the effects of social media on mental well-being. Many of these studies show that social media use increases the risk of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and suicide. Research shows that heavy social media use may also lead to feelings of envy, reduce your confidence and self-esteem, and increase your risk for alcohol addiction and other types of substance use disorders.
Many social media users only share moments in their lives that are fun and positive and may even share photos that have been manipulated or altered. This type of content gives other users the false perception that their friends’ lives are better or more exciting than their own, triggering feelings of envy, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Over time, these feelings can eventually evolve into mental health disorders that people may try to self-medicate by using drugs and alcohol.
Alcohol Advertising as a Public Health Concern
Alcohol advertising is most definitely a concern. A 2006 study published in JAMA declared that alcohol advertising was a serious public health issue when delivered through mediums including TV, radio, billboards, and newspapers. Today, alcohol advertising is even more concerning, given its tactics on social media sites, quickly targeting specific age groups and other susceptible audiences.
According to a 2020 study published in Drug and Alcohol Review, “Big Tech” companies like Facebook and Twitter are highly secretive about how they target users and how they collect data to influence certain groups of users. This has made it difficult for lawmakers to regulate social media and the type of content being exposed to users, especially when it comes to alcohol advertising.
How to Tackle Drinking Triggered by Social Media Use
If social media is influencing you or someone you know to drink, the best thing you can do is distance yourself from social media and take a break. Spend time in the real world with others who share similar interests and who can make you feel more excited about being away from your computer or device.
Consider limiting your social media use to finding in-person events, clubs, and activities you can partake in regularly. Look for groups of people who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and flag football or for groups of people who would instead do an in-person book club at a coffee shop or community center versus an online forum or chat room.
If you’re in college, acknowledge that you’re at the age at which experimentation is at its peak. It’s completely normal to be curious about alcohol, but keep in mind that binge drinking and alcohol abuse come with severe consequences that can ruin your health, livelihood, and make it difficult for you to succeed in your academic and social lives.
It’s also helpful to know that your brain continues to develop well into your twenties after you start college (or turn 21). Too much alcohol can increase your risk for mental health disorders and other medical problems later in life.
Lastly, keep in mind that social media doesn’t often reflect a person’s real life and that the posts you look at on social media are likely only highlights and snippets of a person’s life. Disconnect and focus on living your own life doing the things you love so you can meet other people who make you feel happy and less envious.
Treatment for People Addicted to Social Media and Alcohol
A high-quality addiction treatment center will develop a customized treatment program for you based on the root causes of your substance use disorder. If social media use contributed to your alcohol addiction, your treatment will likely involve changing how you perceive and use social media.
Alcohol addiction is a substance use disorder, while social media or internet addiction are usually considered behavioral disorders or behavioral addictions. Many rehab centers can treat you for both disorders and use special therapies that teach you how to live a happier, more productive lifestyle without social media and alcohol.
Treatment for alcohol addiction usually begins with alcohol detox, which helps you recover from physical alcohol dependence. Detox gets you safely and comfortably through alcohol withdrawal using medications that reduce your symptoms and the risk of potential complications.
After detox, you can transition into a rehab program to receive a variety of behavioral therapies, including support group therapy that allows you to enjoy the company of your peers in person in a healthy, positive environment.
Where to Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
The Haven is a premier drug and alcohol detox center devoted to helping people recover from alcohol dependence and addiction. We also offer behavioral therapies designed to address the root causes of your addiction that will teach you healthier ways to manage stress and other triggers without resorting to alcohol use.