8 December 2021

We’ll e-drink to that

The Back Page

What was the pandemic like for you?

Your Back Page correspondent can’t help thinking that this question, and variations on the theme, will be dominating small-talk exchanges for decades to come. Much like British oldsters still remember the Blitz, Boomers can’t stop banging on about when JFK was assassinated (or was he?) and anyone over 30 has 9/11 as a conversational touchstone.

And now we have covid and the lockdowns, and in particular the blessing (or curse) that is the Zoom meeting. 

Not only did Zoom technology, and other popular variants, become a staple of office-based working life, it also pervaded the after-hours activities as well. 

Hanging out digitally with friends and colleagues became a “thing”, and, as most of us will attest, while it kind of works, it isn’t quite as good as the actual thing. 

Could this be because the technology changes how we consume alcohol and other drugs in the virtual space?

Australian researchers reckon it does. 

Our boffins conducted in-depth interviews with three groups of friends who converted their usual catchups to online encounters during lockdown.

What they found was folks “creatively and instinctively changed the way they drank or used drugs” to better suit the virtual environment.

According to their findings, the participants reported avoiding or consuming less of particular substances and opting to consume substances that, for them, fitted more comfortably with their online engagements. Or, as one interviewee said, “Like what, you’re gonna do speed and be stuck in your bedroom?” 

The researchers, perhaps optimistically, reckon this could be viewed as an “organic” mode of harm reduction.

“Our study conveys the importance of digitally-mediated alcohol and other drug consumption as a site of socialising and pleasure,” the researchers said. 

They also called for “research and policy approaches that are sensitive to the affirmative potentials of digitally-mediated alcohol and other drug encounters”.

Given the numbers of folks packing back into drinking venues and the subsequent uptick in covid cases, they may well have a point.

If you see something that has you reaching for the vin ordinaire, share a glass with felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au

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