Do College Students use Facebook to Communicate about Alcohol? An Analysis of Student Profile Pages

Vol.5,No.2(2011)

Abstract
The purpose of this study was to quantify the amount of alcohol-related content posted by college students on a popular social networking website and explore the relationship between that content and actual drinking behavior, as well as perceived drinking norms. The latter has been indicated as an important variable influencing college student drinking behavior, with students tending to overestimate the quantity and frequency of other students’ alcohol use. To better understand alcohol-related content students are exposed to online, researchers viewed college students’ Facebook profiles, recording the presence of alcohol-related content. A total of 68 college men and women participated by allowing researchers to view their Facebook page, recording the amount of alcohol-related content, and completing a brief survey on which they reported alcohol use and perceived drinking norms. Results indicated 76.5% of participants’ profiles contained alcohol-related content. This included a substantial proportion of underage participants. The presence of a significant relationship between alcohol-related content on Facebook and reported alcohol use, and between reported alcohol use and perceived alcohol use of Facebook Friends suggest social networking sites may contribute to perceived drinking norms and should be addressed in future intervention efforts aimed at reducing college alcohol abuse.

Keywords:
college drinking norms; facebook; social networking sites; alcohol
Author biographies

Angela K. Fournier

Author photoAngela Fournier, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, MN. She holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech and a B.S. in psychology from Christopher Newport University. Her interests are in applied research to improve large-scale health behavior and the study of social media and technology in health behavior intervention.

Steven W. Clarke

Author photoDr. Steven Clarke is currently the Director of the Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center at Virginia Tech. He has been working in the alcohol abuse prevention field for 25 years developing alcohol abuse prevention interventions and conducting research on alcohol-related behaviors of college students. His work focuses on the development and evaluation of marketing campaigns, social media, and psychoeducational interventions targeting college students.
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