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Exploring the Role of Social Networking Sites in Alcohol Consumption among College Students: Which Platforms Have the Greatest Influence?

Among college students, alcohol consumption is a significant social and public health issue. Alcohol consumption has been correlated with increased risk of accidental death, assault, and sexual assault. In addition, excessive alcohol use can impact academic performance. This had led researchers to investigate provoking factors for alcohol use among this population. Around 89% of social network users are been the ages of 18 and 29 suggesting that social media may influence the behaviors of college students. Social networking sites (SNS) have become platforms for college students to display risky behaviors including substance use which may impact peers’ substance use and one’s own substance use behaviors. This study examines the effect of four SNS (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat) on college student drinking behavior.  

The study’s sample consisted of 330 college students from a Southeastern public university. Students were asked to report alcohol consumption during the past thirty days. Participants were also asked which SNS platforms they used and how much time they spent on SNS. Lastly, demographic information was collected regarding racial identity, sex, age, number of years in college, and Greek organization involvement. Data was analyzed using an ordinary least squares regression model to explore relationships between SNS use and number of alcoholic drinks consumed during a typical drinking occasion.  

Results of the data analysis showed that most participants reported drinking alcohol between 2 to 3 times a month and once a week. During these occasions participants tended to consume between 3 to 5 and 6 to 8 alcoholic drinks. Students reported spending between 4 to 6 and 7 days per week on SNS for 1 to 2 hours per day. Instagram was reported to be the most used platform and Twitter was the least used. Drinks consumed on an average occasion was moderately positively associated with frequency of days drinking and weakly positively associated with number of days a week on SNS. Snapchat was the only SNS positively associated with alcohol consumption.  

Takeaway: Snapchat usage may be associated with alcohol consumption during a typical drinking occasion among college students.  

O’Shields, J., Baldwin-White, A.. Exploring the Role of Social Networking Sites in Alcohol Consumption among College Students: Which Platforms Have the Greatest Influence?. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 2022;1-2. Doi: 10.1080/07347324.2022.2137447 

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