Results from the “young adults, drinking cultures and social networking” research project were released in March 2014.
The three-year research project explored the ways in which new technologies are being used by a range of young people (and others, including marketers) in drinking practices and drinking cultures in Aotearoa/NZ.
Secondarily, the research explored how these technologies impact on young adults’ behaviours and identities, and how this varies across young adults of diverse ethnicities Māori, Pasifika and Pākeha, social classes and genders.
Researchers from Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Bath (UK) and University of New Hampshire (USA), received $864,000 for the project from the Royal Society’s Marsden Fund.
The resulting report, “Flaunting it on Facebook: Young adults, drinking cultures and the cult of celebrity”, is publicly available, along with related presentations, theses and other publication on the drinking cultures website.
To arrive at the findings, 141 young people participated in friendship focus group discussions, with 23 individual interviews conducted where young adults showed and discussed their Facebook pages. This involved recording pages visited. Popular online material regarding drinking alcohol was also collected.
Key findings demonstrated “that social technologies play a crucial role in young adults’ drinking cultures and processes of identity construction. Consuming alcohol to a point of intoxication was a commonplace leisure-time activity for most of the young adult participants, and social network technologies were fully integrated into their drinking cultures.”
Being visible online was crucial for many young adults, and they put significant amounts of time and energy into updating and maintaining Facebook pages, particularly with material regarding drinking practices and events. There was evidence of nuanced and complex ways in which people from different ethnicities, genders and social classes engaged with drinking cultures and new technologies.
Worryingly, “alcohol companies employed social media to market their products to young people in sophisticated ways that meant the campaigns and actions were rarely perceived as marketing.”
The researchers suggest a key direction for future research is further exploring alcohol marketing in social networks and related new media.
Extra: The project leader, Associate Professor Antonia Lyons, will speak on the topic of “Social media and our drinking culture”, in Hamilton, on 9 October 2014. See details of the Marsden Fund “Ten by Ten” talks.