The impact of level of alcohol consumption and social context on the perceived attractiveness and employability of Facebook users

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The majority of social media users freely disclose information about their alcohol drinking behaviour online (Erevik et al., 2017). Disclosures are typically aimed at friends, who view them positively (Beullens & Schepers, 2013), but they are likely to be viewed more negatively by those outside the users’ close peer group (Jain et al., 2014), including potential employers (Bohnert & Ross, 2010). Male and female drinking behaviour is often interpreted differently by viewers (Walther et al., 2008), and while it has been shown that both moderate (Scott & Bruce, 2019) and excessive alcohol consumption (Ridout, Campbell, & Ellis, 2012) negatively impact perceived employability, the degree to which the disclosure of each may impact candidates’ employment chances remains unknown. Additionally, although timeline owners are often described as drinking in a social context, the influence of social setting on perceived employability has not been explored. We investigate perceptions formed of social media users by manipulating Facebook timeline owner gender, level of alcohol consumed, and social context, while measuring perceptions of attractiveness and employability. Online snowball sampling was used to recruited 117 participants (76 female; Mage=25.09), who saw 12 Facebook profiles in total. Timeline owners could be male or female, and the top item on each timeline was an update by the owner describing them drinking a beverage, which contained manipulations of drink type (non–alcoholic/light drinking/heavy drinking) and social context (alone/group). Each participant saw each drinking scenario only once, but the manipulations were counterbalanced across 3 participants groups, e.g., “cooking dinner and enjoying a nice cup of tea (non-alcoholic)/small glass or pinot grigio (light)/bottle or 2 or merlot (heavy)” or “nice evening to meet Sam for a strong coffee/gin & tonic/few jugs of mojitos and watch the game”. For each timeline owner we measured participants’ perceptions of physical-, social-, and task-attractiveness (the extent to which participants wanted to be their friend, thought they were attractive, and thought they would be good to work with) on 5-item Likert-type scales (McCroskey & McCain, 1974) as well as perceived employability using a single item. A series of ANOVAs revealed interactions of gender and social context for social- and physical-attractiveness: females were rated more socially-attractive than males when in a group, while males were rated as more physically-attractive in a group than when alone. There was also an interaction of alcohol and gender, with females rated as more socially-attractive than males while engaging in light or heavy alcohol consumption, and appearing more physically-attractive than males when engaging in heavy alcohol consumption. Further analyses revealed an interaction of gender and social context for perceived taskattractiveness and employability: males were rated as higher in task-attractiveness and more employable when alone, while females were rated higher on both dimensions when in a group. There were additional interactions of alcohol and gender: males were rated higher in task-attractiveness when they drank nonalcohol, females were rated higher when they drank non-alcohol or light alcohol. Males and females were both rated as more employable when they did not drink alcohol, but within the light and heavy alcohol conditions, females were rated more employable than males. Results demonstrate that males and females are perceived differently both in distinct social settings, and when drinking alcohol. On all measures of attractiveness females are generally perceived more positively than males when drinking, and when in a group. While all timeline owners’ perceived employability was negatively impacted by disclosed alcohol consumption, the negative impact was more severe for males than females. Alcohol consumption and social context independently effect both personal and professional impressions formed of Facebook users, although gender interacts with both differentially.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2019
Event24th Annual CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy & Social Networking Conference - Norfolk State University, Norfolk, United States
Duration: 24 Jun 201926 Jun 2019 (Event's website.)


Conference24th Annual CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy & Social Networking Conference
Abbreviated titleCYPSY24
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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