How to make young people aware of the dangers of alcohol on social networks?


Alcohol is highly represented on social networks, associated with entertainment scenes, which young people in turn observe and share. This presence contributes to trivializing alcohol in the lives of young people and to hiding the pernicious effects of its abuse.

Anti -alcohol campaigns aimed at young people, whether they use traditional means of communication or rely on social networks, are not very effective when it comes to encouraging healthy drinking behavior. As various scientific studies have shown, young people, while being aware of the dangerous effects of alcohol, tend to adopt attitudes of resistance and defensive responses to institutional messages.

It therefore seems necessary to find new communication strategies to transmit the necessary prevention resources to young people and help them become aware of behaviors that promote alcohol consumption.

Concerned by this situation, Addict Aide (a French organization mobilized against alcoholism problems) launched an original campaign, “Like my addiction” , on social networks with the agency BETC, with the aim of showing how easy it is to ignore the signs of alcohol dependence. In this campaign, Louise Delage , a 25-year-old Parisian, created a profile on Instagram. His photos had simple captions, such as “relaxing with friends”, “dancing”. Instagram users who saw this profile didn’t know it was a campaign. In just one month, Louise already had 65,000 followers and her photos had received 50,000 likes.

However, in his last post, users discovered that it was a fictitious account whose purpose was to show “a person that people knew on a daily basis, but who they had never suspected she was an alcohol addict”. Indeed, in each of her 150 posts, Louise Delage appeared with a glass of alcohol. The aim of this campaign was to serve as a “revealer” of addiction problems.

Discussion groups

BETC’s campaign has undeniably had an impact given the massive number of “likes” it has generated on Instagram. However, until recently, we did not measure exactly to what extent it had contributed to combating addiction to alcohol, nor if this form of alternative communication to traditional campaigns could help to curb the pernicious influence of images linked to alcohol. alcohol circulating online.

According to the results of a research that we have just published, this type of approach can help to better prepare young people to identify the presence of alcohol on social networks , to be critical about the intentions of the images they see scrolling and adopt healthier behaviors.

A total of 124 young people (71 women and 53 men) aged 19 to 25, registered on Instagram, and unaware of this “Like my addiction” campaign, took part in the experience we offered them for three weeks. . This took place in the LipsiMedia Laboratory of the University of Valladolid .

In a first phase, many variables were tested, showing that the presence of alcohol in the photos of Louise Delage posted on Instagram eludes most participants. Moreover, they generally believe that including, on social networks, alcohol in scenes of entertainment and happiness has no effect on the daily behavior of those who have seen these images.

In a second phase of the research, the young people were divided into two groups. A group (control) took part in a pooling session during which they were immediately informed of the background and specificities of the “Like my addiction” campaign; those who took part were also shown images of institutional campaigns, followed by conversations allowing everyone to share their opinions about alcoholism on social networks.

With the second group, over an equivalent period, the trainer also established an interactive dynamic but using another procedure, called the dialogico-critical method . In four stages, through questions arousing the curiosity and reflection of the candidates on the image device, it was a question of bringing the members of the group to detect for themselves the presence of alcohol in the photos of Louise Delage, to dismantle the springs of this influence and understand how alcohol, without their knowledge, could impose itself in their minds as something positive.

Building stories

In a third and final phase, the behaviors on Instagram of all the participants were evaluated for a week following the formative session. The results show that, while the young people in the control (conversational) group did not change their attitude on Instagram, the participants in the dialogico-critical group did significantly modify their conduct on this social network. They justify this change by saying that the experience around the “Like my addiction” campaign has triggered an awareness in them and that they now pay more attention to what they do on Instagram, to “likes they attribute and what they share.

All this is confirmed by the analysis of their real conduct on Instagram during the weeks following the formative period.

In conclusion, this scientific study shows that, to warn young people of the pernicious effects of alcohol, we cannot stop at institutional campaigns showing either the negative consequences, or moralizing messages or calling for responsibility (according to a marketing push strategy). The path suggested by this LipsiMedia Laboratory research is to use campaigns that build stories that can appeal to young people, using a simple and effective interactive educational method that captures their interest, encourages reflection and a change of behavior. (according to a “pull” marketing strategy).

This method can be used in the fight against alcohol addiction and is useful for public institutions responsible for the prevention of addictive behavior and health education.

Author Bio: Jesus Bermejo-Berros is Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the University of Valladolid and Director of the LipsiMedia Ad-Lab Laboratory at the University of Valladolid