Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok can often make alcohol use seem incredibly classy and fun. Social media can alter your perception of alcohol, regardless of whether or not you are an experienced drinker or have a general understanding of how alcohol can affect your health.
Exposure to alcohol content on social media can be especially detrimental to young people who may not have extensive alcohol experience or enter the experimental phase of adolescence and young adulthood. It doesn’t help that many alcohol brands and advertisers take advantage of social media sites to target populations who are more susceptible to alcohol use, including children and teens.
Being aware of how social media affects your perception of alcohol can help you make smarter decisions regarding drug and alcohol use. This knowledge can also empower you to keep your children safe from exposure to alcohol advertising and influencers who are paid to promote alcohol.
Is Alcohol Consumption Higher Among Social Media Users?
There is no solid evidence that shows whether alcohol consumption is higher among all social media users. However, evidence suggests that young people who use social media are often more likely to engage in risky drinking behavior and alcohol misuse. For instance, according to a 2014 study published in Alcohol Research, many social media platforms knowingly expose teens and young adults to pro-alcohol content that increases their rate of alcohol misuse.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are widely used globally by people of all ages. In 2022, more than 42% of the world’s population will be social media users, according to projections published in a 2020 study from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the majority of social media users are young adults. Of all the 18 to 24-year-olds in the United States who have Internet access, 90% use social media, reports a 2017 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Many social media platforms are paid for by various advertisers who want to showcase and sell their products and services, including alcohol. Some platforms allow alcohol advertisers to target younger age groups who are more willing to try and experiment with alcohol. Many times, parents and users are unable to block or avoid alcohol-related ads, which further contributes to the problem.
Do Social Networking Sites Promote Underage Drinking?
An overwhelming amount of evidence shows that young people get easily influenced by alcohol-related content on social media that encourages underage drinking. Teens and young adults may look at photos and videos of their peers going to parties and drinking alcohol on the weekends and start drinking themselves to fit in. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), peer pressure is a major risk factor for addiction and substance use disorders.
In a 2021 Loyola Marymount University study, researchers found that college students who used Instagram and Snapchat suffered greater rates of alcohol misuse than peers who didn’t use these platforms. Results from the study also revealed that many of these students created secondary social media accounts to hide their alcohol use from parents and other authority figures. Additionally, these students drank at least one more alcoholic beverage per week for every 30 extra minutes they spent on Snapchat.
Social media gives many young people the perception that everyone else drinks alcohol regularly and in high amounts. In a 2021 study published in Addiction, researchers found that children between 10 and 15 years were more likely to drink alcohol if they spent time on social media and that teens between 16 and 19 years were more likely to binge drink regularly.
Is It True That Social Media Also Affects Your Mental Health?
The NIDA defines addiction as a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Technically, social media does affect your mental health, and lots of evidence supports the fact that social media use can increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. It can also make you feel less confident, reduce your self-esteem, and increase feelings of envy toward those whose lives seem better and more exciting than yours based on the messages they share on social media.
However, not all social media use is negative or produces negative effects on your mental health. For instance, a 2016 study published in JMIR Mental Health revealed that social media can reduce depression and anxiety when used in positive ways, such as in support group settings or to conduct video chats with friends and family. Social media use becomes harmful when it affects your mood and well-being and when it leads to self-harm, poor esteem, and suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
How Does Alcohol Advertising Affect Public Health?
Alcohol advertising was considered a major public health concern long before social media was available. Alcohol brands and advertisers relied on billboards, magazines, newspapers, television, and radio to influence the public’s perception of alcohol, according to a 2006 study
published in JAMA. Many pro-alcohol ads are designed and developed for people to use alcohol and engage in risky behaviors like binge drinking.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alcohol ads feature various elements that give consumers the impression that alcohol is stylish and popular and makes occasions better. The FTC has strict rules regarding alcohol advertisement, so it does not target younger audiences. For instance, it states that no more than 28.4% of the audience for an alcohol ad should consist of people under the age of 21 and that the ad content should not appeal primarily to people younger than this age group.
In social media, many platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, remain secretive about their methods for targeting certain users with ads despite FTC guidelines. In a 2020 study published in Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers say factors such as these make it difficult for lawmakers to regulate and control alcohol advertising on social media.
What’s the Best Way to Avoid the Negative Influence of Social Media?
If you find that social media is affecting your life and making you feel envious, sad, anxious, or depressed, make changes to your profile that reduce your exposure to negative content and interactions and increase your exposure to positive messaging.
For example, stop following people who post numerous photos of themselves partying and drinking alcohol, and start following more people who share your same interests. Unfollow ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, friends, or acquaintances who make you feel envious, less happy, and less confident about yourself.
Other steps you can take to avoid the negative effects of social media include spending more time in the real world with real people instead of getting into debates with people online or obsessing about other people’s daily activities. Keep in mind that many people on social media share only their most positive experiences, which can easily give others the impression that their lives are perfect and stress-free.
Also, consider using social media only for networking with clubs, groups, and friends you can spend time with in person. Use it to find like-minded people who enjoy your same hobbies and values and who can make you feel more excited about being away from your computer or device.
Is There a Special Treatment for Binge Drinking or Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease that often requires professional treatment. Binge drinking is a harmful behavior that can increase your risk of alcohol dependence and addiction, along with alcohol poisoning and memory blackouts. If you think you may have a drinking problem, please understand countless treatment options that can successfully help you quit.
Detox is the first stage of treatment that manages the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Detox involves medications that reduce your withdrawal symptoms so you can feel more comfortable and face a reduced risk of complications. Detox usually lasts between two and ten days, during which you can relax until you start feeling better.
After alcohol detox, you can start receiving therapy in an alcohol rehab program. All rehab programs are customized for each patient based on the root causes of their alcohol addiction. For example, if you started misusing alcohol as a result of being influenced by social media, your therapists may teach you how to use social media in healthier ways and how to become more confident.
Support groups allow you to network with others struggling with similar problems. These meetings can teach you tips and tricks for dealing with alcohol cravings and temptations. You can also join support groups for people addicted to social media or the Internet and get involved in sober in-person events and activities.
Where Can I Get Treatment For Alcohol Addiction and Mental Health Concerns?
Contact Indiana Center for Recovery today at (844) 650-0064 to learn more about your treatment options for addiction and co-occurring mental health concerns. We welcome patients from Indiana and all other parts of the U.S. who need help fighting and recovering from alcohol misuse. We offer alcohol detox, alcohol rehab programs, and numerous behavioral therapies to help you experience a safe, fulfilling, and long-term recovery from addiction.