Social media and drugs, alcohol and mental illness just don’t mix


[Extracted from my public lecture ‘Social Media – Risks and Rewards’]

Researchers internationally are attempting to fathom the crucial question of why people – particularly celebrities whose public images are so crucial to their sponsorship deals – continue to let down their guard and publish comments and images on social media that they would never offer publicly to the mainstream media.

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The cognitive factors inherent in this are for the behavioural science researchers to investigate. A strong hypothesis is that the very raison d’etre of the social media platform – gathering with friends to chat, gossip, joke and share just as you would in a pub or café – is so absorbing that it is difficult to remind oneself in the midst of an evolving conversation that you are likely publishing the material beyond the narrow friendship circle you imagine. Add to this mix the statistics on substance abuse and mental illness. According to the 2010 National Drug Strategy household survey, one in five Australians aged 14 years or over were categorised as ‘risky drinkers’ (AIHW, 2011, p.51) and one in 20 Australians reported having used an illicit drug in the past week (p. 85). Also, one fifth of adult Australians experience the symptoms of mental disorder every year according to another Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (2010, p. iii). All this amounts to the statistical reality that at any moment on social media there will inevitably be people publishing material in a state not conducive to sober, reflective, considered authorship.

Once the psychologists have determined the factors contributing to this propensity to throw caution to the wind on social media it will be up to the educationalists to develop effective pedagogical techniques to teach children and adults how to pause and reflect before publishing on social media. And, of course, a warning not to engage in social media after imbibing in drugs or alcohol would be wise counsel.

See the full lecture at:

© Mark Pearson 2013

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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Filed under courts, media law, Media regulation, social media

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