Trendsetters: has alcohol lost its cool?
A look into how popular culture and social media are reflecting the changing attitude towards alcohol
The pandemic forced us to reevaluate the ways in which we were living, and it’s no surprise that since then people are prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing.
Health and wellness trends are taking off all over social media and with that has come a growing interest in mindful drinking and sobriety.
Cutting back on alcohol has been linked to improved sleep, increased energy levels and enhanced mental clarity. With this in mind, more and more people are embracing the concept of mindful drinking, choosing to abstain from alcohol completely or moderate their consumption.
It’s fair to say that social media has played a significant role in popularising this trend. On TikTok, we have seen the ‘sober curious’ movement where hashtags like #damplifestyle have 47.6 million views on the platform, and #sobercurious has 557.3 million views and counting. Through these trends it is clear that an increasing number of young people are beginning to question their relationship with alcohol.
A DrinkAware survey looked into the UK’s drinking behaviour and found that just 8.1% of 18-to-34-year-olds drink four times per week or more, compared to 25.2% of those aged over 55.
There have also been many influencers joining in on these conversations, whether it’s talking about going completely tee-total or just reducing their alcohol consumption. One of the leading voices in this community is Millie Gooch who, after being sober for nearly a year, set up an online community for sober and sober curious women to have a safe space to speak about not drinking. Made in Chelsea’s Spencer Matthews gave up alcohol after having his first child and even created a hugely successful non-alcoholic spirits brand called CleanCo.
Millie’s Sober Girl Society Instagram page now has 197,000 followers, proving how popular this type of content is. When speaking to Corq.com, she credits the rise in popularity to ‘an increased focus on mental health, conscious consumption and the cost of living crisis’.
Following on from the success with her community, in May Millie hosted her first ‘Dry Disco’ alongside fellow sober influencer @stephelswood. Dry Disco was a non-alcoholic day festival for women which included panel talks about self-love and sobriety, dance workshops, breathwork classes and a disco party.
Other influencers who have joined in on the conversation are The Michalaks, who recently celebrated 9 months sober and former Love Islander and mental health activist Dr Alex George who shared that he has gone 100 days without alcohol.
On top of this, social media platforms seem to be implementing stronger restrictions on alcohol content meaning younger generations are now not as exposed to content including alcohol which could also explain the shift in attitude.
The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) guidelines on alcohol state that it is illegal to promote ‘excessive consumption’, or suggest alcohol can be used to boost confidence or have any other positive outcomes. It is also worth noting that alcohol ads cannot be targeted to under 18s – and you have to be over 25 to feature in an ad.
This shift is not only evident on social media but in other forms of popular culture too.
E4’s Skins, which first came out in 2007, heavily glamorised alcohol and other substance abuse. The TV show followed a group of British teenagers through sixth form who liked to party and drink alcohol below the legal age. Despite this, one of the main characters, Effy Stonem, became somewhat of an icon for teenagers.
TV shows today, like Euphoria for example, now tend to portray excessive drinking as a serious problem, rather than ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’. This is reflected in a study carried out by Google which found that 70% of Gen Z would consider binge drinking a ‘very risky’ activity, while 41% associate alcohol with the words ‘vulnerability’, ‘anxiety’ and ‘abuse’.
Furthermore, excessive drinking on reality TV shows has been significantly reduced too.
In the early 2000s Big Brother frequently showed alcohol being consumed and contestants were noticeably intoxicated. This is in stark contrast to Love Island which first launched in 2015 and limits participants to 2 drinks a day.
Even in music, rappers seem to be mentioning alcohol and partying less and less. Dave and Central Cee’s latest release Sprinter (currently number 1 in the charts), for example, doesn’t mention alcohol or going out – unlike the majority of rap songs released twenty years ago.
As we look ahead, it’s evident that the health and wellness trend, coupled with the growing interest in sobriety and mindful drinking, is here to stay.
This transformation represents a broader cultural shift towards prioritising holistic wellbeing, conscious consumption, and mental health awareness. By embracing these changes, individuals are redefining their relationship with alcohol, fostering healthier lifestyles, and promoting a more balanced approach to self-care and personal fulfilment.