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Drinking Habits

How Social Media Has Influenced Drinking Behaviors

August 11, 2023
29 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 11, 2023
29 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 11, 2023
29 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 11, 2023
29 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
August 11, 2023
29 min read

Jessica, a vibrant 27-year-old, scrolls through her Instagram feed. It’s Saturday night and all her friends are posting pictures — partying, mugging for the camera, having the time of their lives. With a nagging sensation of missing out, Jessica wonders if she should be there, too. She thinks twice about her own decision to stay in and cut back on alcohol.

And just like that, social media has once again impacted a personal choice.

Social media has become deeply entrenched in our lives. It plays a pivotal role, from shaping our perceptions of beauty and success to subtly influencing our daily choices. One of the more under-discussed effects of this digital revolution has been on our drinking behaviors.

Media Influence on Alcohol Consumption

Before talking about social media specifically, let’s take a brief look at the media influence on alcohol consumption in general. 

  • Advertising. Since the earliest days of advertising, alcohol has been one of the main subjects. Ads featuring happy, attractive people sipping beer or Bacardi often downplay the risks of alcohol and can have an especially powerful effect on young people.
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  • Movies and TV shows. The alcohol we see on TV isn’t limited to ads — a lot of it is also featured in shows and movies we watch. Whether it’s the “funny” shenanigans of characters in How I Met Your Mother or the “trendy” outings of the Sex and the City quad, alcohol has (at least until very recent times) often played the role of a friendly protagonist.
  • News and public awareness campaigns. It’s not all bad news, however! The media can also play a positive role by helping spread awareness about the dangers of excessive drinking, driving under the influence, and health risks that come with alcohol.

The Age of Social Media: Dial-Up Days to Digital Domination

Let's jump in the wayback machine for a moment. Remember when the most “social” thing on our computers was that pixelated game of Solitaire? Oh, how times have changed!

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the digital scene was budding. We had chat rooms and MySpace, where everyone was in a mad dash to be part of Tom's top friends. Fast forward a bit, and we entered the era of Facebook, which started as a college networking site but quickly evolved into the global giant we know today.

Then the floodgates opened. Twitter introduced us to the world in 140 characters (now 280, phew!), Instagram made us all photographers, and Snapchat made our quirky or embarrassing moments appear and disappear in a flash. And let's not forget platforms like TikTok, making everyone feel like they're the star of their own music video.

Here’s a birds-eye view of the social media evolutionary timeline:

  • 1991: The World Wide Web is launched to the public, and the first website is created, setting the stage for online communities.
  • 1994: Geocities, a service that allows users to create their own websites, becomes one of the earliest platforms for personal online expression.
  • 1995: is introduced, aiming to reconnect old friends and classmates. 
  • 1996: ICQ is introduced as one of the first instant messaging tools.
  • 1997: AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) enters the scene.
  • 1999: LiveJournal is introduced as a platform for users to maintain a blog and form communities around shared interests.
  • ​​2003: Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson launch MySpace, which becomes a significant player in the early world of social networking — particularly popular among teenagers and musicians. 
  • 2004: Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates at Harvard University create Facebook, which will soon surpass MySpace as the place to be.
  • 2005: Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim launch YouTube — a platform for sharing videos online.
  • 2006: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams create Twitter.
  • 2010: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launch Instagram as an iOS photo-sharing app. Also, Pinterest is introduced as a platform for discovery and idea-sharing through visual bookmarks.
  • 2011: Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown launch Snapchat, which introduces the concept of ephemeral messaging with photos and videos that disappear after being viewed.
  • 2018: TikTok, owned by ByteDance, becomes a sensation, especially among younger audiences.
  • 2021: Facebook rebrands its parent company to Meta as part of its vision for building the metaverse, a shared virtual space. Platforms including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus now fall under the Meta umbrella.

But it's not all fun and memes. The dawn of these social media platforms brought a profound impact on our behavior, our culture, and yes, our drinking habits. What started as a way to connect, share, and laugh at cat videos, soon began shaping our perceptions, decisions, and aspirations. For some, this meant being more exposed to the glamorized world of cocktails and happy hours.

On the flip side, social media also birthed new ways to connect with like-minded individuals. Looking for a community of craft mocktail aficionados? There's probably a hashtag for that!

What's the “Status” Today?

Today, the digital realm is more than just an online space; it's an extension of our reality. The lines between our online and offline selves blur more every day. The friendships we foster, the trends we follow, and the choices we make (such as deciding to cut back on or quit alcohol) are all intertwined with our social media experiences.

As we continue to like, share, and tweet our way into the future, it's essential to remember the influence these platforms have and the power we hold as users. After all, every post, story, and snap is a reflection of our choices, making our digital footprints as unique as our own journey.

Social Media and the Brain: What's the Connection?

Ever wondered why, after a long day, you just want to scroll through social media? And why does that little red notification icon make your heart flutter just a tad? Let’s see what's happening inside our brain when we dive into social media.

  • The dopamine dilemma. Dopamine is our brain's "feel-good" neurotransmitter, activating when something excites or pleases us. That feeling you get when you post a photo and those likes start rolling in? Yup, that's dopamine at play. Social media platforms, specifically designed to give us these mini hits of happiness, keep us coming back for more.
  • Connection and belonging. Humans are, by nature, social creatures. We yearn to connect, share stories, and be part of a tribe. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram tap into this primal need, allowing us to maintain friendships, make new ones, or join a global community. The brain loves this! It reinforces feelings of belonging, even if we're just lounging in our pajamas on a Sunday morning.
  • Curiosity and the scroll hole. Our brains are wired to be curious and to seek new information, and what better place than social media, with its never-ending stream of updates, stories, and reels? Before we know it, a quick "check" turns into an hour falling into the latest internet rabbit hole, such as the Roman Empire trend, Barbenheimer memes, or celebrity pregnancy rumors.
  • Comparison: the double-edged sword. Here's a tricky one. Seeing others' achievements, vacations, and life events can sometimes make us question our own. The brain, in its attempt to understand our place in the social hierarchy, can spiral into comparison mode. While comparison is natural, it's worth remembering that we’re all showcasing our highlight reels, not the behind-the-scenes reality. You’re (probably) picking your most exciting, most flattering pictures — and everyone else is, too. Real life just can’t compare!

In this age of digital connectivity — when every moment can be captured, curated, and broadcasted to the world — our relationship with alcohol has undergone a transformation. Social media, the epicenter of our online interactions, has been both a mirror and a catalyst, reflecting and influencing our drinking habits. As the line between our digital and physical lives blurs, let’s explore four trends behind the portrayal of alcohol on our screens that impact our perceptions and choices.

Social Media’s Influence on Drinking Behaviors

The Rise of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Remember those school days when everyone seemed to be in on a secret or a game, and you desperately wanted to join in? We've all carried a bit of that schoolyard sentiment with us into adulthood and the online world. Enter FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” the grown-up version of those feelings.

FOMO isn’t just a catchy acronym — it's a real psychological phenomenon. Studies show that seeing others indulge in fun activities can make us feel like we’re missing out, creating a sense of anxiety and unease. And because these fun activities often involve alcohol, our FOMO might unintentionally amplify the urge to drink.

Why We're All Feeling the FOMO

Social media platforms initially promised connectivity. And boy, did they deliver! Suddenly, we were privy to vacation snaps from high school acquaintances, updates from distant cousins, and party invites from friends-of-friends. With this wave of constant information came a new emotion: the nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, everyone else is having a better time than us.

Our brains are great at tracking what's going on around us. Social media amplifies this tendency by presenting a smorgasbord of experiences, moments, and events, all at our fingertips. As we scroll, it's only natural for the brain to occasionally think, "Hey, why wasn’t I there?" or "Should I be doing that too?" It's like having an internal radar that’s always alert for potential fun we might be missing out on.

Is It All Bad News?

There’s a silver lining to the discomfort of FOMO. This feeling, when recognized, can motivate us to reach out and genuinely connect with friends and family. It reminds us to cherish real-life experiences over virtual ones. So, next time FOMO strikes, maybe it’s a cue to call up an old friend or plan a fun outing. Turn that FOMO into JOMO — the Joy of Missing Out — by finding contentment in the present moment.

A sprinkling of FOMO is natural in today's hyper-connected world. But everyone’s journey (online and offline) is unique. So while it's okay to peek into others' worlds, let’s not forget to celebrate our own moments, big or small. After all, every time we look up from our screens, there's a world of experiences waiting just for us.

Glamour and Drinks: Behind the Filtered Facade

Ding! A new post notification pops up, and voila! There's your colleague, holding a shimmering cocktail against the backdrop of a sun-kissed beach. We've all seen these photos — the ones that make life seem like a never-ending party, with every drink appearing as if it's freshly plucked from a movie scene. But what's the story behind this glitzy portrayal of drinks on our feeds?

While many of us understand that social media showcases a filtered version of reality, it doesn’t change the fact that those filters can make certain activities (like drinking) look exceptionally glamorous. This often leads to a skewed perception, making it seem like everyone is always having a grand ol’ time with a drink in hand.

The Instagrammable Era

In today's digital age, everything has become "Instagrammable." And drinks — with their vibrant hues, elegant glasses, and quirky garnishes — are no exception. From rainbow-colored mocktails to the sophisticated froth of a fancy cocktail, beverages have become stars in their own right. It’s almost as if there's an unspoken rule: "If you drink it, post it!”

To be fair, it's not just about the drinks — these pictures capture moments, moods, and memories. A drink in hand often signals relaxation, celebration, or social connection. For many, a glittering glass isn't just about the beverage: it's a symbol of joy, camaraderie, or a well-deserved break.

Is It Always Picture-Perfect?

While our feeds are flooded with these dreamy drink depictions, it's essential to take them with a pinch of salt (or a splash of tonic!). Not every drink is a ticket to paradise, and not every social gathering is as joyous as it seems through the lens. Just as we know that the flawless skin in beauty ads might have had a little digital assistance, it's crucial to remember that these glamorous drink photos might be more about aesthetics and less about actual enjoyment.

It's natural to be swayed by the allure of these snapshots, especially when trying to cut back on or quit alcohol. But all that glitters is not gold, and it's beneficial to remind ourselves that while the pictures are pretty, genuine joy and fulfillment come from our own experiences and choices, not from the curated moments of others.

So the next time a glam drink photo pops up, appreciate the art, maybe even get inspired to make a fun non-alcoholic version, and continue sipping on your journey, one authentic moment at a time.

Social Media Endorsements and Peer Pressure: Like, Share, and ... Sip?

Scroll, scroll, double-tap, scroll, swipe! There's your favorite influencer, giving a toast with the latest "it" beverage in town. Before you know it, a thought pops into your head: "Maybe I should try that!" Welcome to the world where social media endorsements meet the age-old tug of peer pressure.

From influencers sipping cocktails on sunny beaches to friends checking into the latest breweries, the barrage of alcohol-related content can be overwhelming. This peer pressure isn't limited to real-life interactions anymore. The constant feed of images and updates can make the idea of cutting back or quitting alcohol seem a little odd.

  • Celebrity selfies and signature sips. Ever noticed how often celebs and influencers are spotted holding a drink? Whether it's an exclusive brand deal or just the trend du jour, these online personalities have a knack for making everything seem ... well, cooler. And when they're sipping, liking, and sharing, it can feel like we're just one drink away from being part of the in-crowd.
  • The pull of the peer. It isn't just the rich and famous who influence our choices. Our friends, family, and that random acquaintance from high school also play their parts. If everyone in your circle is posting about a particular drink or bar, your curiosity naturally builds. It’s like there's an ongoing virtual party, and part of you wonders, "Should I be there? Should I be sipping that?"

Is It Really an Endorsement or Just a Moment?

Here's the thing: while it might seem like everyone's having a fabulous time with their drinks, a post is just a snapshot. It's a fleeting moment, not always an endorsement. And while a particular drink might be trending today, tomorrow there might be a new flavor on the block. Such is the fickle nature of trends!

Here’s a refreshing idea: instead of getting swayed by every drink that graces your feed, why not create your own signature sip? Whether it's a zesty mocktail or a classic drink with a twist, let it be something that truly resonates with your tastes. And if you decide to share it online, make that post about the joy of discovery and not just because it’s the latest trend.

So while endorsements might come and go, and peer pressure might tug now and then, remember you're the captain of your ship (and sip!). Stay anchored in what feels right for you, and you’ll never feel adrift in the vast sea of social media. 

Digital Drink Recipes and Cocktail Culture

The rapid spread of drink recipes and the celebration of cocktail culture can serve as a trigger for some. The more these drinks are showcased as art or lifestyle, the harder it might be for someone trying to reduce their alcohol intake.

Shaken, Stirred, and Shared!

Whoosh! Up pops a vibrant video tutorial, showcasing how to make the “Ultimate Summer Cooler.” Before you know it, your screen is flooded with colors, fizz, and ice cubes. Digital drink recipes have taken cocktail culture to a whole new level. But what's brewing behind these bubbly broadcasts?

  • A virtual mixology class. Long gone are the days when you'd need to attend a mixology workshop to learn the tricks of the trade. Now, every social media platform is brimming with influencers, bartenders, and enthusiasts shaking up a storm. From classic concoctions to innovative infusions, there's a recipe for every palate and mood. It's like having a 24/7 bartender right in your pocket!
  • More than just a drink. Cocktail culture isn't just about the drink in the glass — it's an entire experience. Crafting a cocktail has become a performance, a dance between ingredients and techniques. And with digital media, every twist of the citrus and splash of the mixer becomes a visual treat, pulling viewers into a mesmerizing world of flavors and flair.
  • The mocktail movement. But wait! It's not all about alcoholic allure! The rise of digital drink recipes has also brought the humble mocktail into the limelight. From herb-infused lemonades to a berry burst fizz, these non-alcoholic delights are gaining popularity, proving you don't need booze to have a blast in a glass!

Drink Responsibly, Digitally

While the virtual world offers an ocean of drinkspiration, it's crucial to remember our own limits and preferences. Every digital drink recipe can be tailored. If a cocktail catches your eye but you're cutting back on alcohol, why not experiment and make a non-alcoholic version? Embrace the creativity on your terms!

Taking Control: The Social Media & Drinking Equation

While it may seem like social media has all the power, we really do have control over our actions, choices, and how we interact with these platforms.

  • Curate your feed. Ensure your social media feed reflects your goals. Unfollow or mute accounts that frequently post about alcohol or trigger the urge to drink. For example, you can use keyword filters to block alcohol-related content or steer entirely clear of platforms that don’t support your lifestyle.
  • Set boundaries. Allocate specific times for social media to avoid mindless scrolling. Perhaps institute a digital detox once a week and give your brain a break.
  • Seek supportive communities. Countless online groups and communities advocate for sobriety and offer support for those looking to cut back. Connect with them!
  • Reality check. Remember that social media only showcases the highlights. For every cheerful toast, there might be many unseen moments of regret, hangovers, and poor decisions.
  • Digital journaling. Create a digital journal or blog about your journey. Not only can this be therapeutic, but you might inspire others on a similar path. (Reframe is a great tool for this!)
  • Engage in alternative activities. When the FOMO hits, indulge in a new hobby or activity. This both diverts your mind and gives you a new, healthy routine.
  • Educate and advocate. Use your platform to spread awareness about the benefits of cutting back on alcohol. Your story could resonate with many others, leading to a ripple effect.

Closing Thoughts

While social media has changed the landscape of our social interactions and choices, it’s empowering to know we can tailor our experience. Quitting or cutting back on alcohol in the age of social media might be challenging, but with awareness and proactive steps, we can navigate the digital world confidently and healthily — making informed, positive choices the whole way!

Summary FAQs

1. What is FOMO and how does it relate to social media and drinking?

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is the feeling that everyone else is having a better time than us, often triggered by seeing social activities on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. This can sometimes lead to increased drinking as people may feel pressured to join in or replicate what they see online.

2. Do pictures of drinks on social media represent reality?

Not always! While many posts showcase drinks as glamorous or cool, it's essential to remember that social media often portrays a curated, enhanced version of reality. What's in the picture might be more about aesthetics than genuine enjoyment.

3. How do celebrity endorsements on social media influence our drink choices?

Celebrity endorsements can make a drink seem trendier or more attractive, often pushing it to a broader audience. However, it's essential to differentiate between a genuine recommendation and a paid promotion.

4. How has social media popularized cocktail culture?

With countless drink tutorials and mixology videos, social media has transformed cocktail culture into a visual and interactive experience, making it easier for users to learn and participate from the comfort of their homes.

5. Are all trendy drinks on social media alcoholic?

No! The rise of digital drink recipes has shone a spotlight on mocktails — non-alcoholic beverages that are just as delightful and creative as their boozy counterparts.

6. Can the feelings of peer pressure on social media be turned into something positive?

Absolutely! Instead of succumbing to pressure, these feelings can motivate us to connect genuinely with friends or create our unique drink recipes, finding contentment in our authentic experiences.

7. How can I enjoy the cocktail culture while cutting back on alcohol?

Embrace the mocktail movement! Many drink recipes can be adapted to be non-alcoholic. It's all about enjoying the creativity and flavor, with or without alcohol.

Thinking of Unfollowing Alcohol? Reframe Can Help!

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