Listen Kids: Study Shows Drinking and Social Media Don’t Mix

If you’re the parent of a young adult or college student,  it’s probably safe to say you’ve heard the term “drunk texting.”  If not, let me give you the quick (and often dirty) definition-it’s when tipsy, buzzed, or full on completely hammered, young people take to their phones or laptops and let it all hang out. And by hang out, I mean they type, text, photograph, Snap, and Tweet pretty much whatever happens to be on their very inebriated minds, and it never ends well. Ever.

To make matters worse, a recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that a majority of college students-especially those that partake in binge and/or heavy drinking,  use social media without inhibition and with little regard to long-term consequences. The lead researcher on the study, Natalie A. Ceballos, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Texas State University in San Marcos, stated “During these times when young students are feeling disinhibited by alcohol, they may be even more likely than usual to post inappropriate material without considering the future impact.”

Drinking and texting Don't Mix
Drinking and texting just don’t mix.(Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

The study asked over 400 undergraduate students about their drinking and social media use habits, and found that those who “binge drank” were more likely to post on social media than those who didn’t. (It needs to be noted here that the researchers defined “binge” as five drinks at one time for men, and four for women-an act that is so common these days in college that I dare say it’s not even considered “binge drinking” but instead, normal.) The study also revealed that there was a greater “intensity” in social media use among the drinkers, and that those young people tended to exhibit a greater connection between their real self-identities, and their emotional attachment to their online identities-both of which can have serious emotional and professional impacts long after graduation. 

The study also found that friends of the heavy drinkers and social media posters perceived their friends’ drunken posts as “exciting and fun,” thus influencing and even encouraging the dangerous practice. Additionally, Ceballos notes in the study that when drunk posters receive positive feedback from such posts, it reinforces that behavior. She adds, “These findings suggest that, in terms of common brain reward mechanisms, perhaps when students get a positive response on social media, this might be “rewarding” to them in a way that is similar to other addictive behaviors, and then over time they get ‘hooked’.”

But what exactly are the devastating impacts this kind of risky behavior can have in the long run? These days it can mean anything from what is happening in their lives in the present- think college part-time jobs, internships, campus behavior infringements and their subsequent penalties, and undergraduate and graduate scholarships, to what can and will happen in their futures when potential employers get a glimpse at the social media accounts used during their college years.

Just one lapse in judgment after a typical night of casual college drinking can have lingering effects,  even when a student thinks they’ve sanitized their social media. Screenshots and other internal saving mechanics these formats have only add to the brutally true statement “The internet is forever.” And not only is it forever, it can forever impact a once promising future.

Sue Scheff, author of the acclaimed internet safety book, “Shame Nation,”  believes that our young people aren’t sufficiently grasping the effects their social media use can have on their futures. She states, “In an age of tweet regrets and post remorse, it only takes one click to change the direction of your teen’s future — and sadly it’s not necessarily for the positive. Posts may be fleeting, but an online reputation is long-lasting.”

We’re living in an age of “one strike, you’re out,” and nowhere is that clearer than when someone does something regrettable on social media. There is no forgiveness and grace to be found in society anymore, and it’s imperative that our young people realize this sad fact, and live it every day of their lives-even the college days that are supposed to be fun-filled and a little less than sober.

Especially the college days.

Related:

Teenage Brain Development: Adolescents Don’t Deserve a Bad Rap

How I Fooled Myself about My Daughter’s Drinking Problem in College

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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