Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Influence of Social Media on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults

Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Influence of Social Media on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults

Article excerpt

Today's generation of adolescents and young adults are growing up immersed in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, that promote user-generated content and interactions between users (Lenhart et al. 2005). The use of such media is especially high among these age groups (Madden et al. 2013b). Social media sites are an environment in which alcohol-related content is frequently created and consumed by adolescents and young adults (Moreno et al. 2009a,b, 2010). Displayed alcohol references on social media may include information and images pertaining to alcohol (Hinduja and Patchin 2008; Moreno et al. 2009 b, 2010a) that may influence viewers (Litt and Stock 2011; Moreno et al. 2009a) and be indicative of offline alcohol use (Moreno et al. 2011). This article discusses social media, their popularity, and their social nature that promotes information sharing and peer connections. It also reviews health behavior theories that support the influential nature of social media, including a newer conceptual approach called the Facebook Influence Model. Finally, the article describes first efforts to use social media for alcohol prevention and intervention and explores how future work could enhance such efforts through observational studies and intervention development. The discussion focuses largely on Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social-networking sites at present, because the greatest volume of research has been published about these sites. Throughout the discussion, the review emphasizes the characteristics that make social media social: their interactive nature, the presence of user-generated content, and the formation of networks.

Social Media Sites

Social media use has grown exponentially over the past decade, and this growth is expected to continue (see figure 1) (Duggan and Smith 2013). This section provides an overview of social media use and trends, with a focus on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Are Interactive

Social media sites are diverse and yet share many similar features. Site users generally create an account; link to a network of other individuals or groups; and use the site to share thoughts, photographs, videos, news stories, and other content (Kietzmann et al. 2011). Social media can be used by individuals to share information about their personal lives as well as by businesses and organizations to promote their products and services. Most of the sites have built-in mechanisms to express approval or disapproval of content; consequently, users can not only form their own impression of a post or video but also can see how many others, and sometimes exactly who, also expressed approval. This multi-directional and user-generated communication about content differentiates social media from traditional mass media and from the earlier days of Internet advertising, when Web sites generally just provided content from one entity or posted information about a product (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010).

The Changing Landscape of Social Media

To understand how alcohol-related messages and images displayed on social media may influence young people, it is important to consider the changing landscape of social media. Different social media sites have gained and lost popularity over time, and new ones are continually being launched to cater to specific market niches and demands, leading to a constantly changing landscape of sites and mobile applications. MySpace is one of the older social media sites, with an emphasis on music sharing; it was among the most popular sites globally in the early 2000s (Lenhart and Madden 2007). Facebook was launched in 2004; it initially was available only to students at Harvard University but quickly spread to other colleges and by 2006 was available to the general public. As Facebook expanded beyond its roots as a network only for college students, MySpace's dominance began to decline. Then, in 2006, Twitter emerged with an emphasis on short text messages (Lenhart et al. …

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