A study observed the influence that social norms has on the “willingness to drink alcohol, drinker prototype favorability, affective alcohol attitudes, and perceived vulnerability for alcohol-related consequences” of adolescents. 189 adolescents were each given a profile to examine through the social website more famously known as Facebook. Some profiles included photo albums which either showed older peers drinking and engaging in alcohol related activities or not. The results provided evidence proving that norms for alcohol use, as portrayed by Facebook profiles, “significantly impact willingness to use, prototypes, attitudes toward use, and perceived vulnerability.” Furthermore, this indicated that adolescents who remark that alcohol use is common are at higher risk for cognitions shown to predict alcohol use than adolescents who do not see alcohol use portrayed as frequently on Facebook.
Participants from the ages of 13–15, 49% being males, were chosen five private high schools, a swim team, and a church youth group. At the beginning of the experiment, it was reported that the majority of participants, 73%, reported ever drinking alcohol and 88% reported having a Facebook account. The response for time spent on Facebook was at least one hour/week. Participants were randomly assigned to particular Facebook profiles that either consisted of pictures with alcohol or without. They were then told that they would have 40 minutes to examine the Facebook profiles of high school students that they would eventually rate based on a series of personality traits. The participants that were assigned to the alcohol user condition viewed the fabricated Facebook profiles of three high school students who were shown drinking alcohol and one profile of a high school student who was not shown drinking alcohol. Meanwhile the adolescents assigned to the control condition viewed the profiles of three high school students who were not shown drinking alcohol and one alcohol user. Prior to the study being conducted, all profiles were viewed by adolescents familiar with Facebook to determine if the content was realistic and appropriate. Participants only viewed same-sex profile pages, profiles of Caucasian students, and profile pages that were of students who were 2 years older than themselves. Moreover, the Facebook profile pages contained three photos of the student and fabricated comments. Comments on the user condition pages alluded to a past drinking incident or future desire to drink alcohol, whereas the comments on the profile pages that did not include drinking were focused around social activities. Once the profiles were examined, alcohol related cognitions were assessed. Finally, all adolescents were debriefed and given information on the dangers of alcohol use.
Greater normative perceptions of alcohol use among older peers were