Once upon a time you could become drunk and afterward, people might gossip about your oafish escapades but it more or less stopped there, unless you broke a law. Or you got stoned and did clumsy, stupid things, but the news didn’t travel too far. Perhaps a few photographs would be shared, especially if you were a celebrity; but for the typical person, it could be hushed up and just become a “learning experience.”
Nowadays when you get drunk and disorderly, whether you are famous or an average citizen, it is easily documented on someone’s cell phone and then posted to social media sites. Your inebriated, uninhibited behavior could end up on You Tube, or Instagram, or other well-trafficked platforms.
You might not want this to happen… or you might be a willing participant, ready for your closeups amidst your screw-ups.
Instagram in particular is a highly visible source of drunk and stoned behavior. Powered by hashtags and popular pages such as Drunk People Doing Things and High People Doing Stuff, and several other accounts featuring “Drunk” or “High” or “ Stoned” in their names, you can watch numerous videos featuring people (often young) doing questionable things while drinking or lighting up.
Quite often it seems as if the subjects of these videos are well aware of their star power, no matter how fleeting it is. But at other times the videos take on a voyeuristic quality, and we are privy to cringey foibles that someone will regret, if they are even capable of remembering them later on.
One video on Drunk People Doing Things highlights the clumsy and disgusting foibles of a young, shirtless man who staggers around and drops a few chicken tenders from a tray he carries. He picks up the food pieces from the sidewalk and puts them back on his tray, and another guy rescues his fries that fell to the floor, placing them on the tray as well. We can assume from the direction of this video that Drunk Guy will indeed eat the food, thus becoming an adherent of the Five Second Rule.
While this video comes across like a wacky sketch from a comedy show, it does seem genuine. It stars an unnamed guy who is drunk and makes questionable decisions, even if they might not be life-changing. What will happen to him when days (or hours) later he is identified, laughed at, and goes viral for being a sloshed klutz? What will happen when his family and employer finds out? When he sobers up, will he feel intense shame or shrug it off… or will he feel a buzz of notoriety? Will he relish the million-plus views of his ineptitude?
Our indiscretions can easily become fodder for social media. It takes so little effort for a person to take a cell phone, press Record, and make a simple video. Save it and post it, with appropriate hashtags included, and it becomes part of The Conversation. Privacy issues be damned. We are all fair game. It’s unkind to do this, but many people have few regrets about making these videos and posting them. It has become a game, a diversion.
Why are so many people fascinated by these videos of Drunk or Stoned people?
- To feel superior
- Empathy, been there done that
- Be part of something!
- Puritanical streak
- Those who do it and get videotaped revel in their fifteen seconds of fame
- Do things on a dare
- Watch people make bad decisions
- You ARE drunk or stoned, and the posts/pix/videos are extra funny to you
- To feel superior: You watch these oafs falling, dropping things, breaking valuables, and acting like Neanderthals– and you roll your eyes at their stupidity. You know that YOU wouldn’t be caught dead in such circumstances, and if you were, you wouldn’t be the headliner of a video gone bad. We can look down at these people while we laugh AT them and their foolishness.
- Empathy: Oh, we’ve been there and done that. Watching a video of a girl tripping and falling flat on her face, and breaking a glass, is something we did way back when. Or maybe last month. So we know what it’s like. Misery loves company. Or dopeyness loves company; we know what it feels like to laugh after doing something dumb while drunk.
- Be part of something: There are so many people out there, getting drunk, getting filmed, gaining notoriety. You can see trends popping up over a few days: more and more videos of people poking holes into their beer cans and guzzling the suds. You have to up the ante for more creative ways to poke the holes and slobber up the beer. The people in the videos are trendy, they are part of a movement, transcending political affiliations. Or you’re part of the partying collegiate movement! Fraternity and sorority members especially seem to gravitate toward this behavior and to being cast in these homegrown videos. And by watching these videos, you become part of the scene.
- Puritanical streak: the opposite of the above. Naysayers need apply. You watch what happens when people get drunk, and it convinces you that being straight edge is the best way.This is not unusual for a certain subset of Americans, who have a tendency toward judging and scolding such behaviors as drinking, drugging, wearing revealing clothing, sexual boldness, cursing, and so on.
- Chasing fame: if you’re drunk or drinking and you become part of a viral video, you acquire fame. People you know will see you and laugh along with you. People you don’t know might reach out to you. People might reference your antics in future videos. This is especially heady for those who do want to be videotaped. Those who don’t, and regret it, might want to go in cognito for a while.
- Doing crazy things on a dare: some people enjoy partaking in dares, while many others like to watch people partaking in dares. You can almost hear a chorus of “Do it! Do it!” in the background, while college kids smash beer cans against their foreheads, jump out second-floor windows into swimming pools, and commit other nuttiness.
- Watching people make bad decisions: can you learn from it? Would you do it? Have you ever watched a video of someone about to become a trainwreck, and then paused it in order to predict the outcome, and even make wagers?
- If you are drunk or stoned, and can hold your phone steady (or someone else can do this for you) you might enjoy watching videos of other drunk or stoned people and their daft behavior. And it’s even funnier when you are under the influence. Every little silly thing is distorted even more, or you laugh louder and longer. Or you feel comradery with the subject(s) of these videos. You might even be inspired to make your own videos, on the spot!
And for what kinds of absurdities could you find yourself involved in when drunk (or sometimes when stoned), and being videotaped and going viral on social media?
- Jumping onto something and breaking it, or jump and fall, jump onto parking lot gate or a person
- Awkward dancing, raunchy dancing
- Grabbing onto someone so as not to fall
- Bowling badly
- Running into a door and smashing it, then falling on your back, or falling into a revolving door
- Running and falling, running a race and falling
- Eating like a big slob (the sloppy salad video, sitting on a sidewalk and eating pizza)
- Riding a bike or motorcycle, drinking, and falling down
- Spraying gas from the gas station pump onto the ground
- Knocking down things
- Falling out of the window of a house
- Drunk housekeeping (vacuuming, stacking dirty cups)
- Rambling speeches and crying
- Screwing up on a slip-n-slide
- Working out at the gym (weights) while drinking, drinking while doing elliptical
- Feeding/petting stray animals and getting bitten (raccoon, possum, squirrel)
- Drunk gymnastics and collapsing headstand routines, ruined back flips
- Dropping your phone in a toilet and washing it with soap
- Drinking while buying beers at a convenience store
- Drunk limbo (don’t knock down the bottles)
- Removing a beehive on a dare
- Drinking a beer through holes in the side of a can
- Throwing beer cans into pools, from balconies, from hotel windows,
- Drunk singing, karaoke
- Flashing your breasts at strangers
- Quickly chugging down oversized alcoholic drinks
- Being carried while drunk (on someone’s back, or an Igloo cooler, etc)
- Escalators and stairs: sliding down banister, spinning on banister
- Reaching out from a car and trying to pet a dog
- Drinking someone else’s drink, draining “half empties”
- Passed out on the bathroom floor, bench, etc.
- Opening a car door while going through car wash
- Twerking on top of a moving car
- Breaking a bottle of champagne, or popping yourself in the eye with flying cork
- Barfing into a toilet
- Eating a $50 bill with a beer chaser
- Climbing onto a bathroom hand dryer and falling down
- Punching mannequins in a department store
- Drunk eyebrow waxing
- Pouring liquor on yourself and showering/shampooing
- Shopping cart races while drunk
- Dancing on tables, ping pong tables, and falling
There are so many ways to make a fool of yourself, and so many reasons for it. What do the experts say? Does research back up these findings? Do we dare look at Instagram in a scholarly manner?
According to a 2014 article in the New Statesman, scientists have researched how we find humor in watching people who are clumsy.
“The researchers have found that the brain interprets funny and frightening facial expressions similarly… this contradiction, or paradox, triggers a humorous response: we laugh, recognising that someone isn’t in danger but is instead just clumsy.” This condition extends itself handily to watching drunk people videos on Instagram– even if it does have an underlying cruel streak.
A Huffpost story delves into “Why do we think it’s funny to put down, hurt, or even abuse another person?”
“America’s Funniest Home Videos is full of images of people falling, crashing, making mistakes, and the resounding laughter that accompanies them.” The show’s producers know that it makes for good ratings.
“(This) makes us feel superior” and to an extent “Misery loves company”. You could also say this is, sadly, a very elemental and crude attitude of many people, and not just the young. Basic psychological and sociological observations have revealed this time and again. Classic cruelty can be dressed up with the latest technological modes.
According to a Science Daily article from 2018, “College students who binge drink are frequently posting on social media while intoxicated and show signs of social media ‘addiction,’ according to a new study.”
“During these times when young adults are feeling disinhibited by alcohol, they can be even more likely than usual to post inappropriate material without considering the future impact… further, friends who view their posts of heavy drinking may then be more likely to perceive intoxication as exciting and fun…”
The key points here are the links between heavy alcohol consumption, being young, and social media usage. In particular, “feeling disinhibited” leads to this behavior. We all know that youthful indiscretion can be harmful, and social media is so easy to use and so readily available, it’s seemingly no surprise that drunk-and-foolish videos are plentiful.
Lastly, an academic article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that “Alcohol posts of youth frequently depict alcohol in a positive social context… and display people holding drinks…In terms of content and processes, alcohol posts on social media are social in nature and a part of young people’s everyday social lives. (including)…social contexts such as dinners and parties…” Alcoholic behavior, even if it is ultimately dim-witted, awkward and cringe-worthy, is viewed favorably by many people, at least in the short run. It is seen as an important aspect of certain people’s lives, and manifests itself in popular social media.
What happens when the young drinkers grow older? When they are applying for jobs? When they run for political office? When their own children watch these videos years later?
Ultimately, are we laughing AT or laughing WITH the “stars” of these drunk and stoned videos? Most of the time we may not want to delve into our motives for indulging in these videos; but when we do, the introspection might be quite painful.
So, should you “think before you drink” or say to hell with it, I want to be a social media star?
– Ellen Levitt