Not Drinking? You’re Weird.

Peter Barnas

Not Drinking? You’re Weird

In the United States, the college years are commonly associated with binge drinking and excessive partying. Generally, students are not talking about what classes they are enrolled in, instead, they are boasting about who had the craziest weekend. Through the use of television, music, movies, and other forms of media, the current collegiate environment helps to facilitate an ideology that looks at those who choose not to engage in the party lifestyle as wayward. Unlike in the 1960s, heavy drinking and drug use is no longer a pursuit of freedom; instead it results from the pressure to fit in socially. Considering that emerging adulthood, ages eighteen to twenty-five, is a time of identity exploration, the pressure to be cool may lead those who would otherwise not engage in heavy drinking, to party it up. The amount of drinking and partying in a college environment is so intense that if a person engaged in a similar amount at an age outside of emerging adulthood it would be seen as socially problematic, and even wayward. As one matures into adulthood the roles of who is considered wayward flip-flops. Taking this into consideration, it is important to actually look at the implications of this dichotomy.  In essence, partying and going wild during the college years is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is during this time period that a person is expected to live life to the “fullest” so he or she may settle into traditional adult roles. An unintended consequence of this ideology is that, for many people, education is no longer the primary purpose of college.

Who’s at Fault?

In today’s culture, through movies, television, and music, there has been a correlation instilled in the youth that implies in order to have a successful college experience; one must focus his or her attention on “living it up” rather than on the educational aspect of it. Although there is nothing wrong with utilizing college as a time period to be free and experience different things, the amount of focus is skewed in such a way that looks at those who chose education as the sole focus of college as wayward. “In North America and many other industrialized societies, binge or excessive drinking during emerging adulthood is condoned, and perhaps even encouraged, particularly for those attending college” (Jackson and White 183).

A common theme throughout any advertisements for alcohol is that it leads to great social times. For members of the youth who are in search of acceptance and friendship, they may rely on alcohol as the key to attaining happiness due to alcohol advertisements ability to put forth an ideology that alcohol equals immediate social acceptability.

 In order to better understand how this has come to pass, there must be an analysis of the forces at play. Parents or teachers do not put this type of ideology forth; it has been put forth by the commodification of a good time. For instance, the movie Party X presents two kids who are striving to find themselves. In order to do so, they throw a massive party that gets out of control. The more outrageous the things get, the cooler people perceive them as. This type of representation puts forth a positive relationship between coolness and having a good time. Depending on how prevalent this type of ideology is in a person’s environment has a direct effect on that person’s own personality. “Secondary socialization becomes effectively charged to the degree to which immersion in and commitment to the new reality are institutionally defined as necessary” (Berger and Luckman 129). Unfortunately, having a good time is not defined as studying, working, or putting forth an effort to attain things in the long run. By having a system that puts the value on having a good time, the things that are not related to having a good time are dissociated from a persons lists of wants. Generally, things are not just handed to people in life, they must be worked for, and for this reason it is important to recognize the error in this ideology since the emerging adults of today’s generation are the future.

Many people look at college as a rite of passage that is necessary in order to settle down into adult roles. While this belief may sound rational, the inherent risk involved is that emerging adults will internalize that life is strictly about having fun and nothing else. Rather then using college as a way to attain a good career or education, students get begin to see life as one big party without having any responsibilities. “The young people today, in contrast, see adulthood and its obligations in quite a different light. In their late teens and early twenties, marriage, home, and children are seen by most of them not as achievements to be pursued but as perils to be avoided” (Arnett 237). This ideology is apparent in movies such as National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Van Wilder, who is depicted as the cool kid on campus, is asked about his future. His response is, “you take life too seriously,” this response is a representative of many college campuses today. Even with the rising costs of college, many students do not have to worry about the serious financial implications due to financial aid and parents. Rather then having to worry about debt in the here and now, students are able to push it off with the mentality of, “I’ll worry about it later.” This application of a shortsighted perspective helps to further perpetuate the belief that those who are putting forth the effort are wayward.

Another example of how the media influences the perception of the youth today and helps to reinforce the correlation between having fun and being cool rather then focusing on school is apparent in music. During the 1960s, music was seen as a pursuit of freedom. People were taking drugs and drinking as a symbol of freedom. Considering it was a time of great civil unrest due to the pushback against the powers at be, who were white males, and the rest of society seeking equality. This is apparent at Woodstock ‘69. In this interview, participants are asked about why they are at the festival. The general theme of their response is freedom. This is a far cry from the music of today’s generation.

This is a satire of the common perception people have of the times spent drunk. While most people tend to think they are the life of the party and having a good time, the reality is that intoxication can lead to sloppiness and acting out in inappropriate manners.

The song by Asher Roth titled I Love College  sums up the current generations view on college perfectly. The whole song is filled with references to a crazy party lifestyle. None of the lyrics make reference to getting an education or to any meaningful pursuit such as freedom and equality. Instead the song is filled with meaningless pursuits such as dancing, smoking weed, and drinking beer.

Although one may attempt to justify looking at college as a maturation process in which one must go through to finally settle into adult roles there are inherent risks. The extent of which college students are willing to push the limits are getting further and further as the years go by, this is apparent through the music that is being produced. The way the movies and music represent the college years may be seen as a harmless representation that is meant to allow the view to fantasize about living such a crazy lifestyle, but these risk with these types of showings are that they will be internalized by the youth of today. This has been the case, and has led to a culture that looks at those who chose not to live such a lifestyle as wayward. Considering emerging adulthood is a time of identify formation, people are especially susceptible to their environment, and as such, may give into the pressure to engage in partying excessively. If society is able to recognize the full implications of looking at those who choose not to engage in excessive partying during college as wayward then it may be able to reverse the trends. Maybe America will be able to rise back into the top ten worldwide is education.

There are movements in place in an attempt to bring into light the significant implications that heavy drinking can have on a person. Considering how entrenched heavy drinking is in many colleges across America, it will take drastic action to change the current trends.

Suggested Readings

Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. “The Developmental Context of Substance use in Emerging Adulthood.” Journal of Drug Issues 35.2 (2005): 235-53.

Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckman. The Social Construction of Reality; a Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1966.

White, Helene-Raskin, and Kristina Jackson. “Social and Psychological Influences on Emerging Adult Drinking Behavior.” Alcohol Research & Health 28.4 (2004): 182-90.

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This entry was posted by pbarnas.

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