Adolescent exposure to alcohol-related content on social media is common and associated with alcohol use and perceived norms; however, little is known about how exposure differs by the source of the content (e.g., peer or ‘influencer’). The purpose of this study was to utilise qualitative methods to compare adolescent perspectives on peer- versus influencer-generated alcohol content on social media.
Nine virtual semi-structured focus groups were conducted with adolescents (aged 15–19 years), following a general script aimed at ascertaining adolescent comparative perspectives on peer and influencer alcohol-related media content and the contexts in which it occurs.
Five main themes emerged: (i) although both influencers and peers post predominantly positively-valenced alcohol content online, adolescents perceived some differences between these posts; (ii) adolescents perceived their peers to be more cautious and strategic when posting about alcohol than influencers are; (iii) the decision to engage with peer or influencer alcohol-related posts is influenced by a number of factors; (iv) both peer and influencer posts were perceived to send the message that drinking is acceptable, normal or cool; and (v) adolescents believed they are more likely to be influenced by peers’ alcohol posts than influencers’ alcohol posts, with some exceptions.
Discussion and Conclusions
Future studies should aim to further understand the unique attributes and circumstances in which exposure to peer and influencer alcohol-related posts impact adolescent alcohol-related cognitions and behaviours. This knowledge will inform prevention and intervention efforts, such as media literacy training and media-specific parenting practices.