Over the past two decades, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. Most of us have profiles on multiple social media sites and spend copious amounts of time every day scrolling through the feeds. Given the amount of time that young people spend on social media platforms, it is time to consider how the promotion of alcohol consumption may affect them in particular.
Does social media have the power to influence us?
No one can deny the impact that social media has had on society. People begin and end their days by checking their social feeds and viewing reels or stories. Young people are especially drawn to content created by celebrities and influencers, many of whom promote a party lifestyle.
But Millennials and Gen Z are not the only age groups that are affected by depictions of alcohol consumption and partying on social media. Gen X middle-age moms who promote the “wine mommy” regularly share posts of themselves drinking. Even Boomers love sharing photos of gatherings and social events where drinking is prominently represented.
The takeaway message is that fun equals drinking. Young people who view these posts day in and day out are having their attitudes about alcohol shaped by this messaging. They are coming of age on social media, absorbing the prevailing message that in order to enjoy life, you need to drink alcohol.
Individuals in recovery are also vulnerable to the pro-alcohol messaging on social media. The constant visuals of alcohol-fuelled festivities can overwhelm someone in recovery. These can trigger powerful cravings and potentially result in a relapse.
4 ways social media promotes excessive alcohol use
Let’s take a look at the four main ways social media can persuade its followers’ drinking behaviors:
- Advertising: Companies that specialize in selling alcohol have largely shifted their advertising budgets over from television and print ads to social media channels. Digital advertising is now given the largest slice of the advertising budget in an attempt to reach a younger demographic. These companies have marketing partners that create and produce highly stylized stories and posts on Instagram and Facebook that appeal to young people.
- Influencers: Famous celebrities, musicians and athletes have a great deal of influence over their followers, especially young people who may idolize these figures. When they see their favorite actors or musicians showcasing a new drink or enjoying the alcohol-fuelled club scene, it portrays a powerful message. Popular social media influencers who have hundreds of thousands of TikTok or Instagram followers also regularly share videos of their alcohol-infused partying or concocting creative new drink recipes.
- Contests: Some alcohol companies are going all out to attract more followers (and more revenue) via social media. They are coming up with some very creative giveaways and contests to draw followers into their brand. Some, such as Coors Brewing Company, have developed apps for customers to earn points after entering codes printed on the 12-packs, which they can trade for tickets to sports events.
- Family: It doesn’t have to be a famous celebrity or creative ad that can influence people’s drinking habits. Family members often share their social lives on social media. These posts and videos can sometimes display relatives, parents and siblings out to dinner with a fancy cocktail in their hands. Maybe they are on a cruise where drinking is as popular as sight-seeing, or in Italy savoring a glass of wine.
Whether the influencer is attempting to sell a product, enhance their online image or brag about their alcohol-soaked cruise, followers who consume this content can be adversely affected by it. For an individual in recovery who might be vulnerable, the best advice might be to heavily curate their social media feeds to keep these triggers away.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.