- Sales of nonalcoholic beer and cocktails are exploding.
- Millennials and Gen Zers are drinking less than older generations, in part because of fears related to losing control while drunk and having the evidence shared on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook.
- As police departments and government organizations increasingly monitor social media, the culture of surveillance extends far beyond declining booze sales.
Sales of nonalcoholic beer and cocktails are exploding.
Nonalcoholic-beer sales have grown by 3.9% on average for the past five years, while overall beer sales have remained mostly flat, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Nonalcoholic brews are the fastest-growing segment in the beer industry, the news website Axios reported, citing a 2018 GlobalData report.
Nonalcoholic cocktails are also on the rise, with Coca-Cola launching a concept called Bar None this year.
There are many reasons nonalcoholic-beverage sales are on the rise. Beer giants have been trying to boost sales in areas – such as many Middle Eastern countries – where alcohol has more legal and religious baggage.
And millennials and Gen Zers around the world are drinking less than older generations did at their ages. A 2018 report from Berenberg Research found that respondents in their teens and early 20s were drinking over 20% less per capita than millennials – who drank less than baby boomers and Gen Xers – did at the same age.
Again, a decline in drinking has been tied to several factors, such as the tendency of younger generations to be more concerned about their health and to favor marijuana over booze. But according to the market-research firm Mintel, another reason is that younger people are seeking control in the face of constant social-media surveillance.
“Control has become a key watchword for today’s younger drinkers,” Jonny Forsyth, a global food-and-drink analyst at Mintel, said in 2017.
“Unlike previous cohorts, their nights out are documented through photos, videos, and posts across social media where it is likely to remain for the rest of their lives,” Forsyth continued. “Over-drinking is therefore something many seek to avoid.”
Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Research Center in California, told Vice’s Munchies blog something similar in 2018.
“Before social media, embarrassing behavior, while likely gossiped about, was visually undocumented. Therefore, the embarrassed person was unlikely to have to face up to their behavior in any meaningful way,” Rutledge said.
“Social media increases accountability for one’s actions,” Rutledge continued. “People like to control their public image on social media since it is permanent rather than ephemeral. Embarrassing ‘moments’ are no longer moments, but posted in perpetuity for all to see without engaging in damage control.”
In other words, the younger generations’ decline in drinking is part of a wider cultural shift thanks to social-media surveillance that younger people have accepted as normal.
“Having grown up with the internet, we knew that the things we put online were potentially permanent and that, inevitably, someone was watching,” Maya Kosoff recently wrote in The Washington Post. “We internalized its omnipresent logic of surveillance, crafting our behavior and our virtual selves in accordance with the knowledge that someone, somewhere might one day judge us.”
And these younger generations are correct in their assumptions that they are being watched on social media.
Earlier this week, ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago reported that the Chicago Police Department worked with the public-school system to survey and analyze potential gang-related activities of students.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the Boston Police Department of using a social-media monitoring program that unfairly targeted certain groups, including Muslims.
And in China, social media is likely to play a major part in a “social credit system” designed to rank citizens based on their behavior.