“Don’t hassle the Hoff. DON’T.”
Short and sweet. That was the voicemail a friend of mine left after a particularly ridiculous night. Uh, what?
But many of us can relate. You roll over in bed, jeans still on from the night before, and your face lands on your battered cell phone. Hesitantly, you scroll through your call log. As you realize you dialed your ex-boyfriend, best friend from high school and some random kid you hooked up with freshman year all in the span of 30 drunken minutes, the cell starts to ring. The voice on the other line confirms your suspicions: “Um, nice voicemail last night.” Oops.
The drunk dial. Why, after a few too many shots, do some of us head straight for the cellular?
It’s a matter of impulse control, according to Eli Finkel, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern. “The prevailing view in the psychological community is that alcohol doesn’t force you to do things you don’t want to do. It limits your inhibitions,” Finkel said. So you end up doing things you wanted to do, at least subconsciously, but that your sober judgment would have prevented you from doing.
Alcohol more than limits your inhibitions, though — it hampers your ability to perceive your environment, causing a condition called alcohol myopia. According to a 1990 University of Michigan study, alcohol myopia is a drunken state of mind where “immediate aspects of experience have a disproportionate influence on behavior and emotion.”
Alcohol myopia doesn’t always lead to an all night text-athon though. Some lucky individuals never drunk dial for the same reason that some people never get angry when drunk: Alcohol affects each drinker differently.
For example, Weinberg junior Clare McNeely doesn’t drunk dial, but she admitted she does drunk text. “It’s usually because I’m in a good mood and I want to talk to my friends,” McNeely said of her drunken tapping on her iPhone.
Finkel suggested that certain personality types might be more prone to break out the phone than others. “People who are most susceptible are people in the quadrant that have strong impulses and strong restraint… I think [they] are the most likely person to fail when drunk — strong desire in the first place but also usually strong restraint that gets foiled by alcohol,” he said.
For those drunk dialers who really need to quit the habit, there are options. Deleting frequently dialed numbers could cut down on embarrassing calls. A more serious alternative is an LG phone complete with a built-in Breathalyzer that warns owners if they are drunk. This warning is thought to reduce the likelihood that partiers will go through with the call and it may even curb drunk driving.
And if you still feel the urge to dial, but don’t want to burden your friends with your intoxicated ramblings, the website Drunkdial.org provides a place to call where you won’t get a confused call back the next morning. And you might even hear your call on the site the next day.
Breathalyzer phones aside, drunk dials and drunk texts happen. Whether it’s hilarious or really awkward, it’s a staple of college life. While you might be embarrassed, is dialing drunk really that bad?
Finkel, who has conducted research on relationships, agrees that drunk dialing should generally be avoided, “but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be good,” Finkel said. When it comes to relationships, he explained that alcohol makes drinkers more adventurous. “[Alcohol] makes you take some risks that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken and every once in a while those could work out well.”