Facebook dethroned: Revealing the more likely social media destinations for college students' depictions of underage drinking.

Research paper by Sarah C SC Boyle, Andrew M AM Earle, Joseph W JW LaBrie, Kayla K Ballou

Indexed on: 25 Oct '16Published on: 25 Oct '16Published in: Addictive Behaviors


Studies examining representations of college drinking on social media have almost exclusively focused on Facebook. However, recent research suggests college students may be more influenced by peers' alcohol-related posts on Instagram and Snapchat, two image-based platforms popular among this demographic. One potential explanation for this differential influence is that qualitative distinctions in the types of alcohol-related content posted by students on these three platforms may exist. Informed by undergraduate focus groups, this study examined the hypothesis that, of the three platforms, students tend to use Instagram most often for photos glamourizing drinking and Snapchat for incriminating photos of alcohol misuse and negative consequences. Undergraduate research assistants aided investigators in developing hypothetical vignettes and photographic examples of posts both glamorizing and depicting negative consequences associated with college drinking. In an online survey, vignette and photo stimuli were followed by counterbalanced paired comparisons that presented each possible pair of social media platforms. Undergraduates (N=196) selected the platform from each pair on which they would be more likely to see each post. Generalized Bradley-Terry models examined the probabilities of platform selections. As predicted, Instagram was seen as the most probable destination (and Facebook least probable) for photos depicting alcohol use as attractive and glamorous. Conversely, Snapchat was selected as the most probable destination (and Facebook least probable) for items depicting negative consequences associated with heavy drinking. Results suggest researchers aiming to mitigate the potential influences associated with college students' glamorous and consequential alcohol-related photos posted social media posts should shift their focus from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat.