The confinement did not change the way Andrea Parrondo and Alejandra Olías, both 18, related to each other as much as might be expected. These two friends met as children in the Madrid district of Carabanchel. Since their early adolescence, they were used to talking on WhatsApp on a regular basis and this is what they did to maintain their relationship during the almost three months that they could not see each other face to face.
“We made a video call, but we talked on WhatsApp, as normal, so things didn’t change much,” explains Alejandra. Sitting next to him on a bench, Carlota Escohotado and Elías Zaragoza, who met Andrea in high school, tell a similar story. “Andrea and I made video calls every night with our group of friends and we kept in daily contact,” says Carlota.
The members of the so-called Generation Z – those born at the turn of the century – have been the first to interact with digital devices since their childhood and, therefore, have overcome the physical barrier imposed by confinement better than anyone else. They have also seen how the restrictions dramatically affected their life span of greatest socialization.
“The experience of the last year and a half shows how the ‘face to face’ meeting is irreplaceable”
“Surely, social networks have mediated the impact of the restrictions, moving part of the interactions to the virtual world, but I think that the experience of the last year and a half shows how the ‘face to face’ meeting is irreplaceable “, declares Margot Mecca, Project Researcher at the Department of Communication of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.
“The flourishing of leisure in the street has shown us the strength of the human demand to be together , particularly in an age of discovery and construction of identity such as youth”, adds Mecca.
This flourishing of leisure in the street has been expressed in a way that has little novelty and that has brought back an old controversy about the consumption of alcohol on public roads: the bottle.
Post-confinement massive bottles
“Before confinement I was already making bottles”, admits Andrea, who justifies this infraction – drinking in the street is illegal in Madrid since 2002 – with the most common reason: “It is much cheaper for me to buy a bottle at Mercadona and drink it at the park to be paying five euros for a drink in a bar “.
It is an argument that thousands of young people have maintained for more than two decades , when the practice of drinking in groups in the street began to become common due to the increase in prices of nightlife venues.
However, the temporary closure of this sector and the unusually long period of abstinence that confinement meant for many young people, has made the bottles of recent months more massive than ever.
Andrea Parrondo assures that he participates in large bottles for an economic question.Andrea Parrondo assures that he participates in large bottles for an economic question.Jorge Paris
“It is much cheaper for me to buy a bottle at the Mercadona and drink it in the park than to be paying five euros for a drink in a bar”
“For me, it’s a space similar to a disco , but outdoors. Maybe it’s not so cool because you don’t have the atmosphere of music and all that, but it’s a space that you share with people and you’re partying outdoors” , declares Alejandra. “It is not very different.”
The controversy around the risk of contagion of Covid-19 in massive acts without security measures and some episodes of violence with the Police have once again placed the bottle under the media spotlight since this summer.
“After confinement I went to the famous bottle of Ciudad Universitaria, it was a bit crazy because there were no restriction measures or anything and people were going to mess it up , but the bottles seem to me to be normal,” declares Andrea.
“It is important to bear in mind that young people often make a different use of public space than adults do, since they often do not have a truly private private space,” Mecca points out. “The public space becomes the place to develop social life with peers, particularly at night, when social control is less present and young people enjoy greater freedom.”
Alejandra Olías defines herself as an “introvert” and admits that alcohol helps her socialize.Alejandra Olías defines herself as an “introvert” and admits that alcohol helps her socialize.Jorge Paris
“It happens to me many times that, in those environments, I can’t have fun if I don’t drink alcohol like the rest”
Do young people drink more than ever?
The concern about alcohol consumption perceived as excessive among young people has been a common debate, actually, for decades. The statistical data do not reflect an increase in this practice, but rather the figures indicate a continuity in the alcoholic habits of today’s young people with respect to those of their older siblings and those of their parents.
“The subject that many people talk about that you can have fun without drinking alcohol , I think it’s true and I think I hope I get to that point because it happens to me many times that, in those environments, I can’t have fun if I don’t drink alcohol like the rest “, declares Alejandra. “I’m a super introverted person, I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know and (alcohol) does help me.”
“Many people do it to socialize, for example, I like a girl and you say: ‘I’m going to drink this so I can talk to her’. To take away that fear, that shame,” says Elías.
Elias Zaragoza admits that, with his friends, he finds it out of routine plans.Elias Zaragoza admits that, with his friends, he finds it out of routine plans.Jorge Paris
“A lot of people do it to socialize, for example, I like a girl and you say, ‘I’m going to drink this so I can talk to her.’
Carlota, on the other hand, assures that she has never been to a bottle , although she does consume alcohol: “I am a super outgoing girl and I do not need alcohol to interact, to go to meet people or to talk to anyone, I drink alcohol because I I like it not because I need it to socialize with anyone or to open up more or anything like that. ”
According to data from the latest Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Education in Spain from the Ministry of Health , 58.5% of young people between 14 and 18 years old said they had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days in 2018 compared to 75.1% in 1994. The average onset of alcohol consumption is, according to this study, 16.6 years, although these four young people claim to have tried it for the first time several years before.
“It is the same, young people reach an age when they have to relate and, probably, consumption can fluctuate, there are times when alcohol decreases more and certain drugs increase , but what we see is that the youngest do not they drink more “, declares the sociologist of the University of Extremadura Artemio Baigorri.
“That will always be there. Young people need disinhibitors to loosen up and establish relationships, create couples and have children tomorrow,” adds Baigorri.
In search of an alternative
With the data and testimonies in hand, it is evident that alcohol consumption is a habit rooted in Spanish culture and many young people start this habit by mere imitation of their adult references. On the other hand, the leisure offer they have is, generally, aimed at drinking alcohol.
“In many discos, at least the ones I have been to, you have to enter paying ‘x’ glasses of alcohol, I have not seen any possibility that if you do not drink alcohol you can enter”, declares Carlota.
Carlota claims she has never been to any bottle, although she does drink alcohol.Carlota claims she has never been to any bottle, although she does drink alcohol.Jorge Paris
“I am a super outgoing girl and I do not need alcohol to interact, to go to meet people or to talk to anyone, I drink alcohol because I like it”
When it comes to looking for plans other than a night out and drinking, young people face two barriers: the force of habit and the lack of money to carry out other plans.
“With my friends, we say: ‘Shall we go out?’ And we already know where we are going and where we are going, we never innovate,” says Carlota. “It’s what Carlota says,” Elías responds. “Normally we go downstairs, go out, go to a friend’s house or have a drink on a terrace, it’s always more or less the same .”
When they want to change, Alejandra and her friends “go downtown, to the Rastro or shopping”, but the money they spend on nightlife ends up with their meager savings available for other activities: “I would like, for example, to go to Eating with my friends is a plan that would make me very excited, I proposed it last weekend, but since we had been partying a lot the previous month, we were out of money and in the end we didn’t. ”
For Andrea, not even entering a nightlife club is affordable : “They have taken advantage of the restrictions to charge much more money than they used to, and not everyone can pay that money to go out to party.”