Social networking may be promoting alcohol use among young people in so subtle a manner that users are not even aware of it.
"It (social networking) is being employed to organise events, communicate with people while out drinking, and enabling participants to share photos of their socialising and drinking online," said Antonia Lyons, associate professor in psychology at Massey University who led the study.
Lyons said the research has also revealed that just as some people saw excessive alcohol use as a way of excusing behaviour, some social networking users were expressing similar attitudes about their Facebook pages, according to a university statement.
Researchers talked with groups of people aged between 18 and 25 years about different aspects of their online behaviour, drinking experiences and exposure to celebrities drinking via pop culture websites.
Lyons said that while the respondents believed the links between social networking and alcohol promotion were pleasurable, fun and exciting, they were not aware of how closely aligned the marketing of alcohol had become with their online usage.
"For example, many participants see themselves as 'savvy' online in respect to alcohol promotion and yet they spend time on alcohol brand sites, 'friend' them on Facebook, and engage in online interactions (such as playing alcohol-centred games or posting photos)."
Drinkify is a website that matches a person's musical tastes to particular drinks. A new iPhone cover has been designed to double as a bottle opener and it comes with a free app that counts how many bottles have been opened, and plays selected music each time it is used, Lyon said.