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The Risk of Posting While Under the Influence

Study: Young people commonly text or post while high, and regret it.

Source: Canstock

"I can't believe they posted that!"

Why do we post things that we know could get us in trouble? Are we not thinking it through in the heat of the moment, or do we think no one is paying attention? Are we simply naive, thinking that what we say is only among friends? Or are we the opposite, craving the approval of all those likes or retweets?

Your online behavior should be the best reflection of who you are offline, but many of us don’t live up to that ideal.

Posting under the influence

The reality is, some people might blame it on drugs or other substances that are altering their behavior. According to a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health, just over a third of young people (34.3 percent) posted on social media while high. Almost a quarter (21.4 percent) regretted the decision.

It's not only social media. More than half (55.9 percent) texted or called someone while under the influence, with over a quarter (30.5 percent) regretting making a call or sending a text. You could be tagged in a picture unknowingly when you thought you were simply enjoying your private time. Nearly half (47.6 percent) had been in a photo while high, with 32.7 percent regretting it.

"Risky social media posts, including those showing people high on drugs, have the potential to cause embarrassment, stress, and conflict for users and those in their social networks," said CDUHR researcher Joseph Palamar. "It can also have adverse implications for one's career, since the majority of employers now use social media platforms to screen job candidates and may search for evidence of substance use."

The truth is, the majority of schools and business are screening your online behavior today.

Searching for a job

A survey in 2018 by Career Builders said employers eliminated 57 percent of potential applicants due to their social media behavior. We’ve seen that the risks of a careless post or reckless tweet can be costly: Some 75 percent of colleges preview a student’s online conduct prior to considering them for acceptance.

According to the Career Builders survey, the two top reasons why potential applicants were passed over are:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photos, videos or information (40 percent)
  • Information about them drinking or using drugs (36 percent)

The author of the NYU study, Palamar, shares the need for more awareness in the risks of posting while high:

"While prevention programs have largely focused on physical safety--for example, not driving after drinking--such programs can also stress that using a smartphone while high can increase the risk of someone engaging in regretful behavior...."

Could your oops moment land you on the unemployment line?

Rise of social media policies

Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you have job security. The law firm Proskauer Rose found in its “Social Media in the Workplace” survey that nearly 90 percent of the companies it surveyed had a social media policy in place and more than 70 percent reported having to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse. Just one inappropriate comment about your workplace, or other topics, can get you fired if you cross your firm’s guidelines.

Most companies today have social media policies in place, so take the time to become familiar with yours.

On a positive note, employers will also turn to social media to find out more about their employees when they are considering them for a promotion. This is even more reason to be mindful with your online behavior.

Preventing unwanted posts, texts, or calls

Let's start by being supportive of each other. If you're going to a party or gathering where you will be drinking or using other substances, it's not only about having a designated friend as a driver, but now also someone that will take control of your device.

Especially if you know a friend has a tendency to post under the influence, be there for them. Be an upstander offline: Help guide them to understand that what they post in the moment will have lasting and serious ramifications for their future.

  1. Attempt to talk them off their device. We know when people are under the influence they can be unreasonable. However, as a friend, we have to try.
  2. Try to contain the damage. If possible, see if they will at least tighten their privacy settings. We know we can’t always rely on them, but we must try. Maybe you can do this for them. Be sure you have your alerts (notifications) on for if you are tagged in photos. Be aware of your surroundings.
  3. When they put their phone down, if they are really out of control, will it hurt if you take the phone for the remainder of the event? When they miss it, you can pretend to be looking for it. Of course, turn the volume off – since they will try to call it.

Posting or texting under the influence can and will impact your future. Whether it’s college admissions, potential internships or employment – or if you are already in school or have started your career – the majority of workplaces and universities have social media policies in place. Don't risk being losing a job or college acceptance over a post regret moment.

We’re all just a click away from life-changing experiences. Let's make them positive ones.


NYU College - Substance Abuse Research

CareerBuilders Survey, 2018

Channel CCR - Research College Admissions

Social Media Workplace - International Labor Law