New Study Finds Facebook Can Drive People To Drink

By McCarton Ackerman 02/12/15

Researchers found that the more Facebook users see alcohol-related pics, the more likely they are to drink.

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Whether it is looking at photos of your ex’s new lover, or oversharing statuses, social media might make some people booze it up. A new study has found that Facebook really can drive people to drink.

Researchers from Michigan State University found that Facebook users are more likely to consider drinking alcohol the more they scroll through and participate in booze-related pages and posts on the site, whether it be through comments or “likes.” More than 400 participants who took part in the study gave their feedback on how they felt after viewing and responding to alcohol-related Facebook items.

Each participant was shown three Facebook pages: an alcohol marketing post with a display that promoted drinking, an anti-drinking public service announcement, and a non-alcohol related advertisement. The scientists found that those who liked, shared, or commented on the messages related to alcohol had a greater intention of drinking. This was also true even when an status update promoting alcohol was placed alongside an anti-drinking message.

“It's ironic because the classical way of thinking about marketing on TV, is to advertise alongside alcohol brands. Our study says 'this might not be the way to do it,'” said study leader Saleem Alhabash. “Underage drinkers will see these ads, think they’re cool and then like or share. They interact with it and then start thinking about it.” Although social media sites are forbidden by law to target alcohol-related content to those under 21, there’s little they can do to stop underage drinkers from viewing the content.

Some parents have also been using Facebook to promote their own anti-binge drinking content. Last September, a mother who nearly lost her 16-year-old daughter to a binge-drinking session posted photos from her hospital bed, with tubes sticking out of her throat, in the hopes of warning other parents about the dangers of alcohol consumption.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.