Do online posts about yourself influence your behaviour? Yes, says a new study.
The study found that students who posted more on social media about drinking before college actually did more binge drinking in their freshman year.
"What you post about yourself online matters – what you post may be who you become," said researcher Jon D’Angelo from the University of Wisconsin.
"The purpose of the study was to understand the role that one’s own Facebook alcohol posts play in predicting binge drinking during the first year of college," he added.
D’Angelo said two of the most interesting findings are that binge drinking by college freshmen is not always planned and Facebook could be a useful tool to identify problematic behaviour.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and University of Washington evaluated three months of Facebook posts for each of the 338 participants in the time period just before entering college.
Binge drinking behaviour were assessed at the end of the study period, which was after completion of the first year of college.
Binge drinking was defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men during a single day.
D’Angelo’s team compared the Facebook posts with actual self-reported binge-drinking episodes.
The researchers found that Facebook is a better predictor of future behaviour than they expected.
"Alcohol posts that students make before entering their freshman year directly predict binge drinking behaviour during college," D’Angelo said.
"We thought the posts would signal intention to binge drink, with intention indicating a general sense of readiness to drink," he added.
Conversely, students who did not post alcohol-related messages were less likely to binge drink.
D’Angelo said it is likely that for many students, binge drinking happens spontaneously and in the moment rather than being planned.
The bottom-line is that posts on Facebook are powerful.
The study was published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society.