Many Young Americans Regret Online Posts Made While High
In a new study, more than a third of young people surveyed said they'd posted on social media while under the influence of drugs, while more than half had called someone or sent a text.
But in the cold light of day, one in five said they regretted a social media post made while high, the study found. About a third of those who called or texted regretted that choice the next day.
About half of the partiers were in a photo while high, and nearly one-third regretted that choice, too.
Study author Joseph Palamar, from New York University School of Medicine, in New York City, said this behavior is akin to "drunk-dialing," which is calling a friend, partner or ex-love when drunk.
But he said the consequences of drunk-dialing tend to be limited. "Now, a text or photo can be shared with anyone. If you leave a questionable post online, it can come back to haunt you years later, especially if someone screengrabs it," Palamar explained.
Screengrab is another word for screenshot, which means capturing an image from a phone or computer. Even if an image was meant to be temporary, if someone screengrabs it, they can post it again whenever they want.
The use of cellphones and social media is nearly ubiquitous. The study authors cite a recent Pew Research report that found almost 90% of young adults (aged 18 to 24) used some form of social media. Nearly 80% used Snapchat, about 71% used Instagram and 45% used Twitter.
Consequences from an embarrassing or negative post can be far-reaching. In fact, Palamar said one of the reasons he initiated this research was because he kept seeing the careers of some actors and sports professionals derailed or even ruined due to past social media posts.
Many employers use social media platforms to screen their job candidates, he noted. They may also look for evidence of substance abuse.
The study included almost 900 young adults who completed surveys when entering an electronic dance music party. They were between 18 and 40 years old. Sixty percent of those surveyed were men.
The participants were asked about current and previous drug use. They were also asked if they had used social media, texted, called someone or were in someone else's photo while high.
Women and young adults were at a greater risk of posting on social media while high. The researchers said they were also more likely to call or text or take photos when high.
Current marijuana users were the most likely to post to social media, call, text or be in a photo while high. Cocaine users were the next most likely to participate in the potentially risky behaviors.
Black people were at a much lower risk of engaging in these behaviors when high, the survey found.
The researchers didn't delve into the content of the posts, calls, texts or photos, so it's not clear how potentially damaging they might have been, Palamar said.
It's hard to know exactly how to stop young people from doing these things, he added.
"There are hundreds of drugs, all with different effects. Some lower inhibition like alcohol does, making posts more likely. But other drugs might make you self-conscious or paranoid and less likely to post," Palamar said.
The obvious advice is to avoid drugs altogether, but for those who decide to use drugs, Palamar advised, "Try to plan beforehand the things you don't want to do while you're high. It's like when you decide that you won't drive while drunk or high. You want to make sure you're safe and don't want to leave yourself vulnerable. You don't want a dumb social media post to have an adverse effect on your future," Palamar said.
Teens and young adults must already have some concerns because there are apps for smartphones to block social media posts, texts and calls for certain times. Palamar said he knows of an app that makes you solve a math problem before you can access certain features of your phone.
Dr. Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research in Calverton, N.Y., said this is a "compelling" study because the researchers were able to get information from young people who aren't always forthcoming.
"This study highlights the growing importance of understanding the relationship between an individual and social media," Kirane said. "These posts become a permanent record, and that's not likely a consequence a young person is thinking about. But as with any new component of lifestyle, we need to approach social media responsibly and recognize the hazards that come with it."
The study was published Aug. 6 in the journal Substance Abuse.
Read more on social media use by young adults from the Pew Research Center.
SOURCES: Joseph Palamar, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor, department of population health, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; Harshal Kirane, M.D., medical director, Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, Calverton, N.Y.; Aug. 6, 2019, Substance Abuse, online