There might be a few negatives.
Yes, I chose the title of this post to be intentionally provocative, but there's some interesting results from this research on college binge drinking:
When drunk, I would feel socially skilled, and wonderfully impulsive, and far more fun than I'd ever been before. I was drawn to alcohol because it allowed me to escape my natural shyness and bond with people I barely even knew.
It's those kinds of positive experiences that fascinate Thomas Vander Ven, an associate professor in the department of sociology at Ohio University. In his new book, "Getting Wasted," he aims to uncover not the dangers of college drinking, but what attracts students to alcohol in the first place. And booze, he finds, not only helps young students alleviate their social anxiety, it helps them grow close friendships, and find romantic love. By taking care of other drinkers when they're feeling ill, he argues, many student drinkers also get their first taste of adult responsibility, findings that have major implications for the ways in which we think about alcohol.
Vander Ven goes into more detail:
There's been some recent research on this. In recent decades parents have been able to check up on their kids more through technology, through Facebook and text messages, and kids' lives have been more choreographed, whether it's being involved in teams or different kinds of lessons and activities and structured places. A recent phenomenon is the parent-orchestrated play date -- when I was a kid I'd never heard of a play date, you just kind of found somebody to play with, and now parents are organizing this. So when they go away to college they feel more off the leash than they would have in past history. They feel this real sense of autonomy. That might result in them taking more risks, and it also means that they may have less practice in managing those risks.
But if they weren't given the opportunity to solve problems when they were younger, the drinking scene also provides them with opportunities to do those things. Taking care of drunks is a way for them to show adult competence.
Vice, in the sense of something enjoyable but possibly dangerous, exists, and people, in some form, are going to try it. Alcohol, even if technically illegal for many college students, is widely available, socially acceptable and doesn't carry the same risks as a number of hard drugs. So, people drink, and form cultures around its use, some more dangerous than others.
College students, instead of being malleable little darlings snared by a sudden epidemic, are humans trying to find a useful way to test vice.
Viewed from this angle, students raised by a generation of "helicopter parents" have a hell of a lot of risk aversion and awkwardness to overcome, and the culture of binge drinking in college helps them to do that quickly, if in a sometimes nasty fashion.
The idea that part of their precious angel's freedom might be to drink herself silly and make out with someone her parents don't approve of before spending the next day hungover doesn't fit with their view of their child as a reflection to manage, instead of an independent human being who has to find out where their appropriate limits lie through making their own choices.
Since the parents have more money and social influence, binge drinking gets regarded as an epidemic, instead of an utterly understandable response to environment. Combine with the still-present idea that vice is something to perfected out of human beings, this makes for really stupid policy that doesn't really deal with the problem.
Personally, I've never seen the appeal of this particular ritual. I enjoy drinks and conversation, but find the whole puking-hangover mess stupid and utterly avoidable. My family also had the blessed sanity to introduce moderate drinking around meals in my teens. I was too poor — and had too much work to do — to binge drink in college. There are far better ways to figure out one's acceptable level of excess.
But it's important to realize these habits don't form in a vacuum. If people actually want to see a decline in binge drinking (and its very real problems), they should push for a lower drinking age and focus on creating a healthier cultural environment for alcohol consumption to take place in.