Drunk Instagram Posting Could Be Symptomatic Of A Bigger Problem

Photographed by Refinery29 UK
It’s New Year’s Day 2020. Somewhere in Leeds, 22-year-old Tahmina* lazily rubs the sleep from her eyes, peels her tongue from her palate and glugs a glass of tepid water. Like the rest of the world, Tahmina is pretty hungover after seeing in the new year.
Snippets of the night before flicker in her mind’s eye: pre-drinks at home, followed by the bar, the rave and, finally, the gay club. Then her stomach drops as more memories come flooding back.
It’s not unusual to get a bit sozzled on NYE. But when Tahmina awoke on 1st January 2020, she realised that she’d gone one step further and uploaded videos of her drunken escapades to her Instagram account for all the world to see.
“I had over 30 Instagram stories,” she tells me, adding that the clips she posted included nudity and drugs. “I didn’t even watch it back in the morning because I just couldn’t make myself. I’d also replied to a load of Instagram stories from other people, wishing them a Happy New Year and telling them how much I loved them.”
Twenty-four-year-old Georgie* from London has also been drunk posting. Last month she did a TikTok live video with her housemate and his boyfriend before streaming a live video from her own Instagram. “Drunk me was like, ‘Wow, great idea.’ For the first 30 seconds it was dead and then some friends came on and were commenting on us being drunk.”
“It was all good until my boss – who I wish didn’t follow me on Instagram – jumped on,” she continues. “She commented 'hi' and I panicked. So I just said hi back, then ended the live straightaway.”
Drunk dialling and drunk texting have been around as long as phones themselves – in 1951 novel The Catcher In The Rye, protagonist Holden Caulfield is depicted drunk dialling an ex-girlfriend. Fast-forward to 2015 and 89% of people in this study said they had sent a drunk text message, with 76% admitting to making a drunken phone call. While drunk texting and calling have always been (and will probably always be) a facet of modern life, using social media while drunk is a little newer.

A message to your ex asking 'You up?' at 2am can stay between the two of you but posting on social media is potentially visible to colleagues, family and even strangers.

Lots of things can go wrong when you open up social media while you’re out drinking, be it manically replying with a heart-eyes emoji to every Instagram story you see or posting a video of yourself sloppily eating a kebab. And while a message to your ex asking ‘You up?’ at 2am can stay between the two of you – in theory, at least – posting on social media is far more public, with uploads potentially visible to colleagues, family and even strangers.
Dr Cyrus Abbasian is a psychiatrist specialising in alcohol addiction and far from seeing it as harmless, he urges people to refrain from posting while drinking.
“If you are, for example, rambling in south Wales, it’s harmless to post about the wildlife or the foliage,” he says. “But in a nightclub it could be harmful, if you post personal information that you don’t want the public to know. It could not only cause embarrassment but reputation damage. The worst-case scenario would be losing your job as a result: for example, after disclosing confidential information.”
Perhaps this isn't something we think about enough because livestreaming our lives has become so normalised. We also dismiss being wasted and laugh it off. But when substances and social media meet, we risk telling others more than we realise: where we are, how intoxicated we are and which substances we've consumed. Tahmina, if she had been sober, would never have posted about drug use.
Some people find that they eventually "grow out of drunk texting". That's how my editor described her relationship with it when we initially discussed this article. "One day it just stopped," she said. "It used to be awful, though. It was like a compulsion, particularly after I went through a big break-up. I kept doing it and then waking up and thinking, Whyyyyy!!!" For others, it's not so easy and, says Dr Abbasian, it could speak to a bigger problem.
Dr Abbasian explains that people disinhibited by alcohol are likely to post inappropriate content. “Often they regret this after having sobered up and delete to cover their tracks,” he says. This chimes with both Georgie and Tahmina’s experiences. “I’m currently just pretending it didn’t happen,” Georgie tells me, while Tahmina recalls how she swiftly removed all evidence of her drunk Instagramming spree. “I couldn’t even look at my DMs [after New Year's Eve] – there was over one full page of messages to different people and I just handed it to my friend in the morning and was like, ‘Delete them all please’.”
It’s evident that lowered inhibitions certainly enable drunk posting but there are many other reasons why people feel compelled to do it. It's worth examining these.

It's easy to do embarrassing things on Instagram because it's quite habitual to go onto the app and post stories on a night out, so it's harder to make that decision to not post.

Georgie, 24
Tahmina says that comparing her social life to others’ on social media is what fuels her urge to post while under the influence. “You want to post about it if you’re having a nice time – you want other people to see you having a good time,” she says. Georgie adds that it’s also so much easier to drunk post on social media platforms than it is to drunk text or call. “I think it’s easy to do embarrassing things on Instagram because it’s quite habitual to go onto the app and post stories on a night out, so it’s harder to make that decision to not post.”
If you feel as though drunk posting is ruining your life, what steps can you take to prevent it? “I’ve started trying to temporarily block people on Instagram before a night out, like my head of department and direct line manager,” suggests Tahmina. In the past she’s also opted to give her phone to a trusted friend when she begins to feel the urge to post on social media during a night out.
More recently, she’s adopted a more failsafe method. “Now I also try not to get too drunk,” she says. Dr Abbasian agrees that cutting back on how much alcohol you consume is ultimately the safest approach. “Even in young healthy people, binge drinking can cause all kinds of health complications and injuries,” he says. “It can lead to trauma, violence and police convictions.”
Ultimately, it’s always best to try and tackle a problem at the root. Far from being harmless lolz, drunk posting is potentially symptomatic of binge drinking or even a disordered relationship with alcohol. As Dr Abbasian stresses, this can have serious consequences. For those who binge drink only occasionally, limiting your alcohol intake or making sure you drink lots of water while drinking will help reduce the health risk from bingeing and make drunk posting less likely. For those who feel their struggle with alcohol abuse is more serious, it might be worth considering seeking professional help.
*Names changed to protect identities
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please visit FRANK or call 0300 123 6600 for friendly, confidential advice. Lines are open 24 hours a day.

More from Living

R29 Original Series