A new research study at Michigan State University examines whether social media encourages alcohol use, and the results may surprise some people. The more a user on Facebook sees or shares comments and views on an alcohol related page or topic the more likely the user is to engage in alcohol use. More than 400 participants recorded their emotions and feelings after they saw and responded to Facebook items which were relevant to alcohol. According to study leader and assistant professor Saleem Alhabash, Ph.D., “What we found is if people actually feel so engaged with that message and want to do something about it —like, share or comment —that it makes the likelihood of them thinking about drinking even greater. Alcohol content is everywhere. Underage drinkers will see these ads, think they’re cool, and then like or share. They interact with it and start thinking about it.”
When discussing the MSU study on social media and alcohol use assistant professor of advertising and public relations Anna McAlister, Ph.D., said “Do intentions lead to actions? Intention is the single strongest predictor of actual behavior.” Alhabash continued with the statement “It’s ironic because the classical way of thinking about marketing, say on TV, is to advertise alongside alcohol brands. Our study says ‘this might not be the way to do it.’” The implications of the study results on underage drinking could be enormous. Alcohol related Facebook pages could be contributing to underage drinking by minors, and with the latest research results showing this to be a contributing factor steps may be possible to minimize exposure to alcohol related Facebook pages by minors.