Causal effects of alcohol-related Facebook posts on drinking behavior: Longitudinal experimental study
Number of pages
SourceJournal of Medical Internet Research, 23, 11, (2021), article e28237
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Medical Internet Research
SubjectCommunication and Media
Background: Adolescents and young adults frequently post alcohol-related content (ie, alcoholposts) on social media. This is problematic because both social norms theory and social learning theory suggest that viewing alcoholposts of peers could increase drinking behavior. It is therefore paramount to understand the effects of exposure to alcoholposts on viewers. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the causal effects of exposure to alcoholposts on alcohol consumption by using a rigorous design. Methods: We conducted a 6-week longitudinal study during which alcoholposts were measured by a newly developed app that copied Facebook posts shared by participants (n=281) to a new social media environment. In addition, daily questionnaires assessed alcohol use. Effects of natural alcoholposts (ie, posted by the participants) were assessed in phase 1, and effects of experimental posts (ie, posted by fake participants) were explored in phase 2. Results: Results showed that natural alcoholposts increased the occurrence and quantity of drinking the following day. That is, exposure to a single additional alcoholpost increased the log odds of drinking the next day by 0.27 (b=.27, credible interval [CI] .18 to .35). Furthermore, the number of natural alcoholposts had a positive (predictive) effect on the number of glasses drunk the next day (b=.21, CI .14 to .29). In phase 2 when experimental posts were also present, these effects decreased. Experimental posts themselves had hardly any effects. Conclusions: This study illustrates clear and direct effects of exposure to alcoholposts on next-day alcohol consumption and suggests that alcoholposts represent an important societal problem that interventions need to address.
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