College Students, Social Media, and What They Don’t Know
College Student's Story
Living in the twenty-first century, technology is heavily used and depended on daily for basic needs, especially in college. While college students use this advanced technology for justified purposes such as to write papers, keep up with online work, and keep contact through email with their professors, there is damage that is created when we begin to talk about social media. College students have used social media for positive purposes such as keeping family updated about their progress or having a pen pal far across the globe to learn about a different culture, but glamorization of binge drinking alcohol is not one of them, yet it is so popular.
Being a college student myself, I witness problems first hand, especially when it comes to the promotion of binge drinking through social media. So often I see pictures and videos of my peers having a blast getting drunk and I recognize that this appeals to first-year students. Social media plays a huge role in persuading others to take part in binge drinking and is one of the biggest contributors to drinking in young adults. Sarah Boyle, the leading author and noted affiliate of the Psychology Department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, states that “a content analysis of 225 undergraduate males’ Facebook profiles found alcohol references to be present in 85 percent of the profiles” (Boyle et al. 21). In fact, men profiles have proven to contain more references pertaining to alcohol and sex than women, so it would not be absurd to assume the same for college men and women (Boyle et al. 22). The advertisement of alcohol is broadcasted for everyone on their profiles to see, including the ninety-four percent of first-year college students that have at least one of the social media sites where the alcohol usage is being displayed (Boyle et al. 21). Many other social media websites such as Instagram and Snapchat have become increasingly popular over Facebook and a convenient place to advertise one's drinking habits (Boyle et al. 22).
Marketing has become a big part of social media for several different companies, most recently including alcohol. Brown-Forman, the producer of Jack Daniels was the first to advertise their product on Twitter in 2011, one of the most popular social media websites with young adults (Hoffman et al. 329). Eric Hoffman, leading author and colleague at Flagler College’s Department of Communication in St. Augustine, Florida, states that marketing companies for alcohol have purposely and “increasingly moved their advertising efforts into digital and social media venues, recognizing college students’ near ubiquitous use of these forms of communication” (Hoffman et al. 328). Approximately two-thirds of alcohol advertisements have moved to social media to draw in more customers (Hoffman et al. 329). This increases the risk of drinking in college students because of the popularity of it on social media and being specifically targeting by marketers. Because of the social media advertising of alcohol, there is an extreme concern for the connections found in research between the abuse of the drug and the placement of the advertisements (Hoffman et al. 329). The increase of alcohol consumption following high school graduates worsens drastically and results in the highest rates of alcohol use in adulthood, particularly in college students (Hoffman et al. 329).
With these mediums of persuasion to binge drink, the essence of not being caught brings a new light to taking part in it, one that most first-year students are fond of. This fact has been confirmed in research performed by Sarah Boyle et al. that state “college students use [social media sites] to reconstruct negative and risky drinking practices into positive and highly valued outcomes” (22). If students believe from the depictions of how impossible it is to get caught and how much fun it is to be drunk through the posts on social media, the likelihood of someone participating is extremely higher than one who did not see these posts regularly. Studies have shown that the media is a strong and effective way of influencing behavior and the willingness to participate in that behavior, especially when speaking of high school and college students (Boyle et al. 22). Growing up in an addictive household, my father had many consequential repercussions for his drinking habits. He was often sick, constantly tired, and when intoxicated, he would become severely violent towards the people around him. He has been incarcerated numerous times for assault charges from being drunk and DUI’s for being under the influence and operating a motor vehicle. My family spent years trying to repair our relationship and it is still not perfect to this day because of my father’s alcohol abuse. These are the kinds of painful experiences that are not advertised on social media unless it is amusing, making drinking even more desirable to those who do not know the negative side effects from participating.
Rape is also one of the main tragedies that occurs when off camera. Steven Lawyer, lead author and member of the Department of Psychology at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, states “Alcohol use is a consistent behavior associated with sexual victimization, with studies suggesting that sexual assault increases risk of subsequent alcohol abuse and that alcohol use increases one’s risk of being victimized.” (Lawyer et al. 453). It is a vicious cycle that constantly leads men and women into dangerous situations. Research has found we should be even more concerned for a friend to assault another friend than a stranger to assault another stranger (Sampson). Specifically, ninety percent of college rape cases are classified as date rape, and most women who experience this refuse to claim they were raped because of knowing the assaulter (Sampson). Even while college campuses stress the importance of rape and try to prevent the instances with mandatory programs, they have not been sufficient (Sampson). Very little is said about sexual assault between peers. It is especially not made apparent on social media because it is unpleasant to see, read, and hear about. If it does not portray the exciting image of binge drinking, most students will not post or talk about it. Because of this, most students don’t realize that thirty-four percent of sexual assaults and forty-five percent of attempts take places on campus (Sampson). These facts most certainly will not help in selling alcoholic beverages to students, considering that alcohol is one of the most popular drugs to use in rape. It is also not an activity that would be seen as entertaining, which is the main reason this subject will not likely be found on popular social media websites.
College students have painted this picture for their friends on all kinds of social media containing the excitement and exhilaration there is in binge drinking. What they do not see is when the party is over. Advertisements for alcohol companies do not show the sickness, the house in shambles, the fights due to someone with a temper that drank too much, or when the girl lying on the floor was unconscious and raped by a friend or stranger. What peers and advertisements promote about drinking covers up the truth to taking part in it and what the consequences are. College students need to be much more aware of these possibilities and drink responsibly.
Boyle, Sarah C., et al. "Different Digital Paths To The Keg? How Exposure To Peers' Alcohol-Related Social Media Content Influences Drinking Among Male And Female First-Year College Students." Addictive Behaviors 57.(2016): 21-29. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Hoffman, Eric W., et al. "Exploring College Students’ Use Of General And Alcohol-Related Social Media And Their Associations With Alcohol-Related Behaviors." Journal Of American College Health 62.5 (2014): 328-335. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.
Lawyer, Steven, et al. "Forcible, Drug-Facilitated, And Incapacitated Rape And Sexual Assault Among Undergraduate Women." Journal Of American College Health 58.5 (2010): 453-460. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.
Sampson, Rana. “The Problem of Acquaintance Rape of College Students.” Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, POP Center, 2002, www.popcenter.org/problems/rape/1.