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Social media photos of substance use and their relationship to attitudes and behaviors among ethnic and racial minority emerging adult men living in low-income areas

Substance use is a major concern in the young adult population throughout the United States with alcohol and marijuana the most common to be used. Previous research has also showed that black drinkers are more likely to report social consequences of drinking along with harmful marijuana abuse increasing for Black and Hispanic men. Finally, research has shown that individuals social network site might impact substance use behaviors. The current study aims to explore social media substance use photos, the relationship between these photos and substance use, to look at masculinity presentation of substance use on social media, and the responses to these social media posts.

119 young adult men were included in the study. Requirements including male gender, 18-25 years of age, English-speaking, heterosexual, cell phone with texting capabilities, and cell phone service. Participants social networking sites were followed for 3 months in which the researchers identified themes. The images and videos were coded for presence of substance use such as cans, mentions of drinking, blunts, or mentions of marijuana. They also coded the images for masculinity and “coolness.” They asked participants about alcohol and marijuana use along with their attitudes towards both.

The researchers found posting of substance use photos was low, but participants were frequently exposed to these types of images. While they found no correlations between alcohol-related posts and attitudes or behaviors, there was a correlation between posting images surrounding marijuana and marijuana use and attitudes. Based on what the researchers have found, it may prove effective to monitor social networking sites for high-need targets for marijuana-related interventions. There is also concerns however about privacy and further research should be completed. 

Take Away: Substance use is a concern in the young adult population. This study focuses on racial minority young adult men and how social networking sites impact their substance use behaviors. 119 young adult men were included. Their social networking sites were monitored for 3 months and they were asked about alcohol and marijuana use. The researchers found that participants were frequently exposed to substance related images and that there was a correlation between posting marijuana related images and marijuana use and attitudes. It may be helpful to monitor social networking sites for high-need targets for marijuana-related interventions, but privacy issues remain a concern.

Lauckner, C., Desrosiers, A., Muilenburg, J., Killanin, A., Genter, E., & Kershaw, T. (2019). Social media photos of substance use and their relationship to attitudes and behaviors among ethnic and racial minority emerging adult men living in low-income areas. Journal of Adolescence, 77, 152–162. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.10.013

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