Social conformity and the alcohol meme trap

If you scroll through some of the glossy instagram feeds belonging to some of the most popular style/fashion or health/wellness accounts, it won’t take long to come across an alcohol meme like the one above. These alcohol posts are ‘like’ magnets; the meme above garnered 12,170 likes. So what is it that we actually like about these memes?

A simple explanation to account for all of these ‘likes’ is social conformity. The definition of social conformity is, “a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group”. Instagram accounts that amass a certain number of followers are dubbed ‘social influencers’, what they post is seen as the ‘group norm’; the common thoughts and behaviours of today.  So it follows that we like the posts to fit in but is there more to it than that?

Due to the common perception that abounds of being fun if you drink and boring if you don’t, liking alcohol memes may be a simple way of saying, “hey yes I like a drink, I know how to cut loose and have fun and I want to be part of this group”.  Most people would not like to be viewed as the uptight one, the stick in the mud, the worry wart. If having a few drinks means you’re able to move along the scale from ‘uptightness’ towards ‘able to let go/relax’ then why not, I know I’d rather have a night out with the people that can forget their worries and have fun. However if you keep moving on this scale from ‘uptight’ past ‘able to let go and relax’ you’ll eventually get to the other end of the scale which is ‘out of control’ and this is usually where people end up if they’ve had too much to drink. You all know the friend who’s full of wild abandon and good times until they start insulting everyone, behaving badly and have turned into a complete liability.

I think the alcohol memes are blurring the boundaries between ‘able to relax’ drinking and ‘out of control’ drinking and because they’re so prolific I imagine people are mindlessly liking them unaware of their own reasons or the impact this could have on others. Take the post above that promotes disordered eating in order to drink more, liking this post is not merely saying “hey yes I get you, I like to get tipsy too” it’s actively agreeing with the message that it’s okay to be out of control with  your diet and drinking behaviour. How about another post which shows an attractive women drinking straight from the wine bottle with the caption, “because yoga can’t solve everything”  or another beautiful women drinking with the caption, “wine is always the answer”, liking these posts is akin to saying you promote out of control coping mechanisms such as avoidance and escapism (which will undoubtedly lead to further trouble along the line).

What we do will always have an impact on others, so if you don’t have a drinking problem don’t pretend you do. If you don’t drink a bottle of wine every time you have a minor problem in life don’t like a post that promotes this. For people that do drink problematically seeing the popularity of wine memes can enable their habit, it normalises and marginalises what may be a very problematic behaviour for them. I remember once going to see the film Shame, entering the cinema all giddy with anticipation about watching Michael Fassbender in some ‘between the sheets’ action and leaving the cinema in a decidedly sombre mood. The film was about sex addiction and was depicted in all it’s dark, depressing, gritty reality and this is the thing, problematic drinking whether it be an addiction or a habit is never fun or lighthearted, it’s messy, complicated and causes trouble for the individual and those around them.

So maybe the next time you see an alcohol meme, pause and ask yourself if it’s promoting out of control drinking behaviour and consider your response.


This entry was posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018 at 5:49 pm and is filed under addiction, Alcohol, women and alcohol. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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