Specific aim: The primary goal of this pilot project is to test the predictive validity of analyzing public Facebook (FB) profiles to identify alcohol use in female college freshmen ages 18 to 20 years old. Background and justification: Alcohol use among college students is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Studies of college student drinkers have been conducted using samples derived from clinics;however, online communities are of increasing importance to this population. Approximately three-fourths of University of Wisconsin Madison undergraduates report ownership of a social networking web site (SNS) profile, and 70% of UW Madison college freshmen reference alcohol use on their publicly available FB profiles. Our pilot studies have identified key links between alcohol use and perceived stress among female college freshmen, a relationship we intend to target in a future intervention. Identifying an innovative method using FB to identify alcohol use among college students has tremendous potential for future intervention work. Preliminary Studies: The PI's previous work includes 4 descriptive studies using SNSs to identify older adolescents and college students engaging in risk behaviors such as alcohol use, focus groups with college freshmen regarding precipitators of alcohol use and a pilot intervention study using SNSs to reduce online risk behaviors in older adolescents. The Co-I's research group has published 14 research articles focused on alcohol screening. Methods: The proposed study will identify 170 female UW Madison freshmen via FB profiles: 85 with references to alcohol use on their FB profiles and 85 without these references present. These subjects will be contacted by FB email or phone and invited to participate in a face-to-face interview. This interview will use validated screening tools to assess alcohol use, as well as covariates including stress, mental illness and other risk behaviors. We will compare displayed alcohol references on FB to alcohol use reported during interviews via a 28 day time line followback to assess the predictive validity of FB profile coding. The criteria standard will be any interview-reported alcohol use in the past month. Significance: FB profiles offer an opportunity to identify female college freshmen who reference alcohol use, and investigate covariates that may contribute to alcohol use such as stress. An intervention encompassing stress reduction as well as brief physician intervention regarding alcohol use and its relationship to stress may be compelling to female college students. Before such an intervention can take place, the link between displayed alcohol references and interview-reported alcohol use must be established. This would be the first study to identify college students using FB and conduct in-person interview to validate the displayed health information from FB. This information could provide an innovative method to meet students in both the """"""""real"""""""" and """"""""virtual"""""""" world in which they live.

Public Health Relevance

This study will pilot test the use of a social networking Web site (SNS) to identify female college freshmen who display references to alcohol use on their Facebook (FB) web profiles. The results of this study have the potential to establish links between self-displayed health information on SNS profiles and self-reported health information via interview. Further, the results of this evaluation have the potential to impact public health practice by demonstrating how to expand identification of college student alcohol use to the Internet using public Web sites, a strategy that could be easily translated to colleges around the country.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IFCN-L (50))
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Baizer, Lawrence
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Kacvinsky, Lauren E; Moreno, Megan A (2014) Facebook Use between College Resident Advisors' and Their Residents: A Mixed Methods Approach. Coll Stud J 48:16-22
Grant, Allison M; Brown, B Bradford; Moreno, Megan A (2013) The Disparity between Social Drinking Motives and Social Outcomes: A New Perspective on College Student Drinking. Coll Stud J 47:96-101
Whitehill, Jennifer M; Brockman, Libby N; Moreno, Megan A (2013) ""Just talk to me"": communicating with college students about depression disclosures on Facebook. J Adolesc Health 52:122-7
Moreno, Megan A; Grant, Allison; Kacvinsky, Lauren et al. (2012) College students' alcohol displays on Facebook: intervention considerations. J Am Coll Health 60:388-94
Moreno, Megan A; Grant, Alison; Kacvinsky, Lauren et al. (2012) Older adolescents' views regarding participation in Facebook research. J Adolesc Health 51:439-44