The Cost of a Drink

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By Josie Gravatt, Writer

With the world ablaze with xenophobia and bigotry, and engulfed in a seemingly perpetual pandemic, it is no wonder that more than seven out of ten Gen-Z adults have reported experiencing common symptoms of depression (American Psychological Association). In constant fear of the next mass shooting and the relentless grinding of academic pressures, one would suspect that our youngest generation would be queuing up at the bar to drown out Trump’s constant blabber and ignorant climate change hoaxes. 

However, unlike our generational predecessors, when the going gets tough, surprisingly enough, Gen-Z is not turning to booze to cope with their inner turmoil. In fact, according to Business Insider, “Gen-Z is consuming more than 20% less per capita than their Millennial counterparts drank at their age.” 

This is not to say that all teens and early 20 year olds have mystically become extraordinarily abstinent overnight; nor is it to suggest that the age of keg stands and tequila shots have been replaced by dreary discussions about calculus, accompanied by miserable mugs of earl grey. Alcohol is still a very prevalent aspect of teen and early adult culture. However, its popularity has declined tremendously as the risks that accompany its usage skyrocket in our fast paced society. 

In 1994, the NIAAA announced that, “40 percent of college students reported binge drinking at least once within two weeks of being surveyed.” In the same breath, it was recognized that, “students who binge drink are more likely to damage property, have trouble with authorities and miss classes.” As a whole, these consequences are proving too colossal and too risky for the modern day student. College, once a luxury, is now a necessity for most. In order to financially keep afloat in our turbulent economy, it is almost mandatory to earn a degree following high school. 

“There’s no job in the United States where a minimum wage job can pay for housing,” exclaimed Berklee grad student Matthew Edwards, age 22. “So of course, we have to get a master’s… I have to go all the way to my doctorate really to do anything.” 

To compromise the chances of achieving your college degree because of the inevitable consequences of alcohol consumption is to put one’s entire future at stake, and that’s not a risk Gen-Z is willing to take. 

“Getting caught on social media, drinking, jeopardizes everything else,” remarks Marc Gravatt, 54. “It’s actually way ahead of where I thought most teenagers would be mentally.”  Born in a world where everything is pressurized and motivation parallels reaping results, phrases like “time is money” have become the new Bible verses, programming Gen-Z to prioritise productivity. 

But before you can take a seat in the grassy quad and hit the books, one must first gain admittance into college. And attributed to the unpleasant cocktail of social media and booze, this feat is proving to be terrifyingly complicated. 

In the age of social media, it is understood that everything is instantaneously captured and uploaded to the internet with no margin for removal. Unlike previous decades, embarrassing events dissipated as quickly as they surfaced. The foreseen humiliation from Friday night may bleed into the following school week but memories fade and after time, no longer pose a threat to your public image.

On the contrary, now our Friday nights are documented by a stinging swarm of snapchatting teens. Our every move plastered upon the unforgiving loop of an Instagram feed. Not only is a humiliating selfie bound to resurface, but the immortality of social media posts increases the accountability of one’s actions and proves threatening to students’ reputations. 

“People get rejected from college because they posted one picture with a solo cup,’’ remarks an 18-year-old athlete and New Paltz High School student. “At the beginning of track… coaches sit us all down [and tell us that] if there’s one picture on social media of you at a party with alcohol or with drugs you’ll get banned from the team.” 

Another NPHS student, 17, voiced a similar concern, stating, “a college coach could see you partying and it would ruin your chances. If you post about partying or drinking, college coaches and mentors aren’t going to recruit you.” 

With the stakes being so high for so many individuals, Gen-Z is finding themselves contemplating the same questions. Will this drink determine my future and is my future worth the risk?

Featured Photo: RDSI Research

Works Cited 

Bethune, Sophie. “Gen-Z more likely to report mental health concerns.” American Psychological Association, 19 Jan 2020, Accessed 22 Nov 2020. 

Khanal, Astha. “Gen-Z’ERS ARE MORE CAUTIOUS ONLINE THAN PREVIOUS GENERATIONS.” Pacific Standard, 06 May 2019, ns. Accessed 22 November 2020. 

Taylor, Kate. “Sales of nonalcoholic booze are on the rise — and it reveals a dark truth about social-media surveillance culture.” Business Insider, 14 Feb 2019, -2019-2. Accessed 22 Nov 2020.