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Drunken Facebook posts viewed as inappropriate among college students, study finds

A new study aimed at exploring (a) whether drunken posts, on Facebook, were considered appropriate among college students, (b) what conditions influenced students’ views of drunken posts, and (c) what these students did when they encountered drunken posts that they considered to be inappropriate. Participants (N = 522) were undergraduate college students attending a small liberal arts college in northeastern Pennsylvania. Participants completed an online survey, which asked students about their Facebook usage, demographic variables and for them to react to two hypothetical drunken posts that appeared in their newsfeed. One post was a general statement of drunkenness and was designed to be mildly inappropriate, it was called the “low offense” (LO) post. The second post specifically mentioned vomiting and being underage and was designed to be more inappropriate, called the “high offense” (HO) post. Participants were also asked to rate the appropriateness of each post, identify the reasons why they felt the post was inappropriate and how they would react if they saw the post in their newsfeed. The author used paired sample tests and chi-square tests of independence for data analysis. Results showed that for the LO post, 24.2% of participants rated this post as “a little inappropriate”, while 20.6% rated it as “somewhat inappropriate”. As for the HO post, 49.2% of participants rated the post as “completely inappropriate”, while 25.1% rated it as “somewhat inappropriate”. In addition, women (91.9%) were more likely than men (80.2%) to view the HO post as inappropriate (p = .000). The main reason participants found the LO post to be inappropriate was because it is “socially unpopular” (28.9%) followed by wondering who would “care” about someone else’s drunken exploits (10.2%) as well as believing that posting such information reflects poorly on the individual and results in a negative judgment of that person (9.6%). For the HO post, the majority of participants noticed that the individual was under the legal drinking age and the illegal nature of the post was the main reason of inappropriateness (59.2%). This was followed by the post being “socially unpopular” (23.4%), and by the language, which focused on the description of vomiting and excessive consumption (18%). With respect to reactions to posts, 85.7% of participants reported that they would do nothing in response to seeing the LO post, and 57% would do nothing if they saw the HO post. For the LO post, an additional 10% would do something, but their reaction would be passive where the user would not directly know of the individual’s reaction. For instance, they stated they would generally hide the post or delete the person as a Facebook friend, both of which can be done without the poster’s awareness (10.3%). While fewer participants responded that they would do “nothing” for the HO post than the LO post, 57% of participants would still do “nothing”. Furthermore, most of them would still respond passively, either by hiding the post or deleting the person as a Facebook friend (31.8%).

Take away: Most participants considered both posts to be “a little” to “very” inappropriate, with the second post being viewed more negatively. A common reason was that the posts were socially unpopular. In addition, the majority of participants would ignore an inappropriate post or react in a way that is invisible to the poster.

Wolfer, L. (2017). The Silent Majority? College Students’ Views, Conditions, and Reactions to Drunken Facebook Posts. Journal of Drug Issues, 0022042617743256.

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