Study: Social media use may help identify students at risk of alcohol problems

May 27, 2016

Research from North Carolina State University and Ohio University finds that having an "alcohol identity" puts college students at greater risk of having drinking problems - and that posting about alcohol use on social media sites is actually a stronger predictor of alcohol problems than having a drink.

"This work underscores the central role that social networking sites, or SNSs, play in helping students coordinate, advertise and facilitate their drinking experiences," says Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and co-lead author of a paper on the work. "The study also indicates that students who are at risk of having drinking problems can be identified through SNSs."

"We started this project with a threshold question: what drives students to drink and post about alcohol on SNSs," says Charee Thompson, an assistant professor of communication studies at Ohio University and co-lead author of the study.

To address that question, the researchers conducted an online survey of 364 undergraduate students at a Midwestern university. The students were all over 18, reported having consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the past month, and had an active Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account.

Study participants were asked about their SNS use, alcohol consumption, alcohol problems and their alcohol-related use of SNSs, as well as a series of questions designed to measure their motivations for drinking.

"The strongest predictor of both drinking alcohol and posting about it on SNSs was espousing an alcohol identity - meaning that the individuals considered drinking a part of who they are," Thompson says. "And those two behaviors were associated with alcohol problems - such as missing school or work, or getting into fights - because of drinking."

In fact, the researchers found that posting about alcohol use on social media was actually a stronger predictor of alcohol problems than alcohol use was. In other words, having a drink was less strongly correlated with alcohol problems than posting about alcohol use was - though clearly students with alcohol problems were drinking alcohol.

"This might be because posting about alcohol use strengthens a student's ties to a drinking culture, which encourages more drinking, which could lead to problems," Thompson says.

"We're hopeful that these findings can aid policymakers in developing interventions to target the most at-risk populations - particularly students with strong alcohol identities," Romo says. "And social media may help identify those students. For example, colleges could train student leaders and others in administrative positions to scan SNSs for text and photos that may indicate alcohol problems."

In addition, the researchers note that future research on student alcohol use may want to further consider how drinking occurs in tandem with other behaviors that could cause students problems.

The paper, "College Students' Drinking and Posting About Alcohol: Forwarding a Model of Motivations, Behaviors, and Consequences," is published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.
-end-


North Carolina State University

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.