The short answer – yes.
A quick google search will link you to this journal article, which mentions the following:
Social media can combine traditional media exposure to alcohol-related content with peer interactivity (e.g., peer endorsement of specific behaviors), resulting in a potentially even more powerful influence on drinking behavior.
But what does this mean?
Traditional media exposure already has an influence on how alcohol is perceived in our lives. Advertisements, movies, and TV shows can romanticise drinking and what it represents. But at least there is still some separation between fiction and reality, and we can remove ourselves from it.
Social media however, can be much more influential in our lives. It can exacerbate existing behaviours through the power of social proof. While scrolling the news feeds of social media, we may see people we know, and in environments that we recognise. They could be posting photos of themselves with wine glasses and beer bottles in hand, raising them in a show of celebration. We may even see risky behaviours being celebrated by our friends.
This research has been echoed in multiple sources, especially in young people.
Even if we don’t consciously think about it, seeing alcohol portrayed in such a light can unconsciously add to our belief systems. If we see our friends and loved ones enjoying it, why can’t we? This is especially harder for those of us who have started to change our own relationships with alcohol. We’re surrounded by it, especially with lockdown and the holiday season approaching.
However, before you delete all of your social media apps (and swearing off Facebook/Instagram forever) there is another side to this debate.
Many support groups and sober movements have built a following through social media, including Hello Sunday Morning! There are groups out there for everything – from looking at booze-free events (check out our friends at Untoxicated!), to the sober-curious movement, as well as those promoting advocacy and alcohol facts. Many people have also documented their own journeys via social media, giving back and creating their own community by sharing their own experiences.
We’ve featured many people on our blog who have taken a leap to be the inspiration for others to change. From being a sober dad, to doing a bike ride from Brisbane to Sydney, there are many who have chosen very inspirational replacement behaviours. Taking alcohol off means more time for the things that we love, of which we are big advocates!
There are also the popular monthly challenges, like Dry July and Sober October. Social media is a strong vehicle to carry the message of these challenges globally. Petitions can also greatly benefit, given that they are communicated in the right way. There are many examples of social media being used in a positive way to change the way we potentially see alcohol.
So is social media really the big bad giant that’s driving alcohol use?
In a way, yes. The algorithms which drive its use (and why we stay glued to the screens) favour alcohol being portrayed in a positive light. The average user can also be targeted with ads encouraging them to buy alcohol, making it much more accessible. It can make social media quite an unsupportive environment for those looking to decrease their alcohol use.
However, we can turn those algorithms to our advantage. By following the many groups and organisations which are committed to alcohol change, we can surround ourselves with resources that will benefit us. Many pages and people post reminders, quotes and daily inspiration to keep you on your journal – just like our social media pages. And if there’s anything you’d like to see, we’re more than happy to take your feedback on it!
Social media is a tool that you can potentially use to your advantage. But whether or not it’s used, it’s more important that you are surrounded by the right support. You can also access our Daybreak app for a supportive and anonymous environment, if you’re not on social media.
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My social media feeds have become places I can go to for inspiration and support. This is due to who or what I’ve chosen to follow along with algorithms social media uses to show me what they think I’ll want to see. Do photos of friends drinking still show up? Of course, but they influence me less and less these days because all I can think of is the misinformation in those “fun photos”. They don’t tell the full story. In the beginning stages, they would have influenced me more in the wrong direction and I do believe taking a break is worth it!
Let’s return to a world of paper faxes.