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‘A Minefield’: How Scholars Who Don’t Drink Navigate the Conference Social Scene (chronicle.com)
43 points by petethomas 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

I do drink, but sometimes I don't feel well enough to drink or I know I'm going to have to drive right after the conference.

In those cases I just order water. No one has ever shamed me or even said anything about the fact that I had a glass or bottle of water instead of a drink.

This doesn't seem like a very hard problem to solve.

This isn't an alcoholic's reality unfortunately. I imagine they even wish it was!

People have problems that inhibit them from engaging fully in tons of domains. Some people have binge eating disorders that are literally taking years off of their lives; should food not be a conference staple either?

There's always going to be another group of people who think that the setup is unfair. If the only group of people who feels left out is the set of academic alcoholics so early in recovery that being in a setting with alcohol is unbearable then honestly it seems fine to me.

I'm not sure it's appropriate to comment on someone's progress through recovery, but I haven't been a part of that movement so I don't know. I get the feeling that whether early or late, it's always one day at a time.

Honestly, I mostly agree with you but I also think alcohol is entirely optional to human existence whereas food is not. So it's not exactly black and white.

Probably if we are all as thoughtful as we can be, the whole thing will keep mostly working :)

You're clearly not an alcoholic, therefore I'm sure it is easy.

For some, alcoholism is considered to be a chronic brain disease where just ordering something else isn't as easy as it sounds.

> No one has ever shamed me or even said anything about the fact that I had a glass or bottle of water instead of a drink.

That's nice for you, but based on the article it's clearly not universal.

Shame them for shaming you. Considering the majority of people in this world are sympathetic to the problems of alcoholism, your shaming will almost certainly find more purchase.

Comparatively, almost nobody is sympathetic to cannabis addiction. Many will mock you for even believing such a thing exists, but five years after quitting it still strains my willpower. Finding somebody who earnestly believes alcoholism doesn't exist is rare (typically you only hear it from hardcore alcoholics deep in denial.)

Even if someone were to shame you, what's to stop you from ignoring them? So what if other people have opinions about your behavior; just acknowledge them and move on.

I'm not sure the shaming or even the people is the biggest issue with alcoholism and the issues raised in the article.

It's more the almost overwhelming temptation - the need, even - to consume alcohol.

It's not an issue I face, as I'm not an alcoholic, but I'm sympathetic to those who do suffer from this disease and face a less than equal footing in their professional lives as a result. I don't have a solution for the problem.

These are important networking events, as the article mentions. Making a bad impression could potentially impact your career.

(Aside from the fact that humans are social animals wired to experience discomfort when snubbed. "Grow a thicker skin" is sometimes necessary, but it shouldn't have to be the default.)

If as an academic you can't handle joking criticism, you've chosen the wrong field.


And, again, this is about industry networking opportunities. It's not just social awkwardness at stake.

Drink virgin drinks. I go through frequent periods of not drinking that don't inhibit me from going to bars or going on business lunches.

It doesn't escape me that these people are women. My wife has had similar experience in literally every other opt in social activity in our field. Have you considered that maybe it's not a hazard of not drinking, but rather a consequence of being a woman in a professional world that is hostile to them?

I would be rather surprised if women didn't get more stick for teetotaling than men do. I'm not sure why you think that's a refutation of anything.

Yeah, this comment falls in the camp of "it's not a problem for me so why is it a problem for anyone else?" category.

That is, unhelpful.

Just for reflection, let's consider instead the case when conferences organize a nature hike or similar. Certainly the function of this is very similar to organizing a cocktail reception - give people a chance to network and have fun. But some people are not able to participate, e.g. due to a physical disability, or they just don't like it. Should the conference stop organizing nature hikes?

A hypothetical that might more accurately reflect the situation at conferences would be if the social events consisted of nothing but nature hikes.

I'm still not sure that's an ideal analogy, though, because it still misses an analogue to a key angle that the article brings up: nature hikes don't engender things like sexual harassment in quite the same way.

Context is key, if you work in a re-rehabilitation center, you are not going to organise a nature hike.

Alcohol should not be a key factor for people to network and have fun, especially in professional spaces.

> Alcohol should not be a key factor for people to network and have fun, especially in professional spaces.

It's not called "social lubricant" for nothing.

While we're far and away from the Madmen era all day drinkathons, it is certainly acceptable in professional spaces and capacities for a little alcohol to be shared.

It's certainly not required, but I wouldn't say it's unprofessional to have a couple drinks at a professional event offering them.

I go on nature hikes during work less often than I drink during work.

The only 'hike' I've ever seen in a professional office setting was when the department rented out a movie theater and my boss decided that we'd walk a mile together to get to the theater. Of course that was more of an urban stroll than a nature hike. Is watching Tron Legacy a legitimate part of a professional environment? It was that day.

Bars almost always have alternative options or food, unlike physical activities

That’s a very all or nothing scenario. No one is saying no alcohol and no one is saying no nature hikes. The big ask here seems to be that people be understanding that recovering alcoholics can’t always be in the room with alcohol, just like we’d be understanding that someone in a wheelchair couldn’t necessarily go hiking. Similarly, the article says that people would like sober events to be made available in addition to events with alcohol.

> "No one is saying no alcohol"

That's definitely not true. There are a lot of people who believe alcohol has absolutely no place in any professional setting.

How about "No one in the linked-to article is saying no alcohol."

Eg, quoting from the article: "These scholars don't want everyone to become teetotalers, or for conferences to ban alcohol altogether. They just want to be able to tackle the social labors of being an academic without the expectation to imbibe." and "Pearl isn't arguing that there shouldn't be any alcohol-related events, she said."

Also, "no one in the HN thread is saying no alcohol."

While your statement is true, I don't think it's useful to point to extreme viewpoints as a reply to a comment saying that we shouldn't use an "all or nothing scenario".

Any more than it would be useful to point out that that, in a piece arguing for vegetarian alternatives, that there some people who insist that no one ever eat meat. Sure, they exist, but it derails the topic.

Wow, I have never seen much alcohol available at conferences in my own field. Often they are held on university premises instead of at hotels like in the linked article, and so perhaps serving alcohol is forbidden there. All one gets is free coffee and some cakes. Sometimes attendees will decide to have dinner together after the day’s programme, but that just means a restaurant where each person can decide whether to order a glass of wine or not, and certainly not an open bar.

A while back I read the memoirs of one prominent scholar in my own field. He claimed that conferences are so often used for impetuous sex between academics, whether single or married. That’s another dodgy side I have never noticed personally. It makes me wonder if he was exaggerating or I have simply been blind to it.

I have been to conferences in the US and Europe. Receptions with complimentary wine or beer are pretty common. This includes conferences held at universities.

What field are you in?

Me neither, maybe it is a cultural US thing?

In my experience there is little to no alcohol at the conference itself but "the real networking happens at the bar" down the street.

The drinking happens outside conference typically. It's part of the socializing.

This is a problem beyond academia - tech has the same issue too. See this Wired article from a while back: https://www.wired.com/2016/12/techs-alcohol-soaked-culture-i...

I'm going to hazard a guess that any field, at a certain level, has these issues because so much of it all comes down to personal relationships and making deals...which happen over drinks (historically). I'd be curious to learn more about high-functioning organizations without an alcohol culture - what do they do instead?

Article> those who don't participate [in drinking alcohol] are de facto excluded

Though I do sometimes drink, I've never felt uncomfortable ordering a water, a non-alcoholic beer (more commonly in Europe), a soda, or a coffee at a place where "everyone else" is drinking.

That may not seem as comfortable in Japan or China, but in Europe, India, and America, I haven't felt the least bit self-conscious or pressured beyond the occasional "Oh, no beer for you?" "None for me, thanks." interaction.

And you can order things that appear to contain alcohol if you feel self-conscious about it. With the added benefit that after a few hours you still have a clear head while everyone else is buzzing — a potential advantage for you.

Not a doctor or expert, but in my experience in tech and startups I noticed a strong difference between (younger) American coworkers and Europeans. Alcohol seemed totally normal to Europeans (and also declining alcohol was never a big deal) whereas with some US expats the “pressure” was more palpable.

Some US friends and coworkers openly discussed this “weird relationship” Americans have with alcohol and how it develops during high school onto college. Can’t comment on that but it fits my anecdotal experience.

Maybe not cirrhosis specialists

Probably the medical industry as a whole has less of this, I'd assume.

I don't understand what the big deal is...we should ban alcohol at these events because some people don't like it? I don't drink, I haven't done so since my first year of uni...it has never been an issue.

Might there be a correlation between people who don't drink and being introverted/feeling excluded? This is definitely true in my case (at one time, I had social anxiety...alcohol was a crutch for me) but you just have to get over it and stop thinking that you deserve an exemption. If we make this exception, guess what...the same people are going to complain about being excluded for some other arbitrary reason.

>I don't understand what the big deal is...we should ban alcohol at these events because some people don't like it?

Yeah. It’s honestly really annoying. This is a big problem in tech, too, and I’ve seen it lead to a lot of alienation between employees. I don’t think alcohol belongs in any kind of professional setting at all. Should I be able to spark up a joint, too? That’s just as legal as alcohol here.

I think the boundary is well-defined (tech companies are not the first companies to hire people): don't drink alcohol at work, don't smoke weed at work (even if it is legal), and don't come to work drunk or high.

If it is a social event outside the work place/hours, you can drink but don't get fucked up and vomit in a pint glass. If weed is legal, you can go outside and smoke like tobacco but, again, don't get fucked up and try to hump a pot plant or something.


I once worked at a place with lots of diversity, so no alcohol, beef, or bacon was allowed at official functions. It ended up meaning a number of us started our own private secret social gatherings which excluded those who had these restrictions. I didn’t want to exclude people but I also like bacon burgers with my beer.

I am not sure what diversity has to do with it? As said, I don't drink but does that mean no-one else should be allowed to drink? What is the idea behind that?

Just imo: if you don't drink but have a problem with others doing so then there is something wrong with you, not with the people who drink.

And speaking from experience, the people who do have a problem with others drinking tend to be motivated by religions that conflict with accepted ideals of liberal democracy (i.e. they look down on people who drink, believe they are unclean/mad/whatever).

I don't drink alcohol, and I also belong to one of the religions where alcohol is explicitly and strongly forbidden. As such, I avoid, as much as possible, where alcohol is served, which is challenging at times, but I make do.

However, I never asked someone not to drink on account of me (though I've definitely given advice to avoid it to people as I would advise anyone to avoid something that is harmful, which I believe alcohol generally to be). My way of dealing with this is to avoid places expressly for the purpose of drinking alcohol (e.g., bars) and to avoid, as much as possible, being the presence of it when it's being drunk.

But those are actions I impose on myself, and not others. I fail to see how this is conflicting with the accepted ideals of liberal democracy (which you ascribe to my entire faith, apparently) and how that is a judgment on people, or how what I do or believe concludes that people are unclean/mad/whatever.

Having said all of that, if the accommodation were made to offer an alcohol-free alternative to something that otherwise is not, I would overwhelmingly welcome that, as I imagine anyone in the world would overwhelmingly welcome any accommodation to their own choice in beliefs, practices, limitations, or other factors that everyone has to some degree, as long as it were not cause to exclude anyone.

One of the differences here is that, by choice, I cannot drink and prefer not to be around alcohol, but I fail to see how a lack of alcohol is an equally discriminating thing. I would argue keeping alcohol out, while maybe less enjoyable for some, would make the environment overall better for most due to the lack of people getting drunk and doing things they otherwise would not do, cost would be significantly reduced, and once again, allowing more people to attend than could otherwise due to the reasons outlined throughout this conversation.

It's the difference between a tolerant atmosphere vs a welcoming one. A simple example is that when i'm with mixed company, I speak in English even if everyone i'm currently talking to can speak another language that i'm familiar with. This allows others to listen in and maybe join in the conversation. This is tossed out of the window when i'm speaking to the same folks but in private. Being welcoming means taking the extra step to make others comfortable, even if it means you end up inconveniencing yourself. Having no alcohol is more "welcoming" as it takes into account folks who might be recovering from alcoholism, while inconveniencing folks who casually drink.

Ah, I forgot...the most welcoming environments are ones where things are banned.

If you want to look at it that way, sure. Most communities ban certain behaviors to cultivate a welcoming culture for their target audience. Even HN has the guidelines which highly discourages certain posting behaviors to keep comment threads civil.

Why was diversity here the reason for banning this stuff? I would expect the opposite: diverse as in many options, differences and preferences, not in restricting and banning. Was this in US by chance?

In the Bay Area. The restrictions were from a mix of Hindu and Muslim. They made official complaints to upper management that effectivly banned the occasional lunch time beers and Friday afternoon drinks. It was one or two beers, it’s not like people were getting belligerent. After the complaints the only sanctioned events were vegetarian restaurants that didn’t serve alcohol.

> Should I be able to spark up a joint, too? That’s just as legal as alcohol here.

Considering it's almost certainly illegal to spark up a cigarette in that same context, since there are laws against smoke indoors almost everywhere, I question whether it actually is "just as legal" for you to spark up a joint.

But what I can tell you from my experience in Seattle, if you failed to be discrete about eating a brownie, you'd find yourself hounded by people who wanted some too.

> Should I be able to spark up a joint, too?

Sparking up a joint in hotels or university buildings is unlikely, as smoking is already banned indoors. But greater acceptance of sparking up a joint elsewhere may well be coming. When I traveled around Uruguay in the time after marijuana was legalized, I occasionally found that customer-facing people like a bicycle repairman or greengrocer were smoking a joint while serving me.

Well, this 100% depends on the cultural context. In many countries work and alcohol are fairly normal and not considered an issue.

Go to the south of France and get a job there, you’ll see a very interesting take on this topic.

> Should I be able to spark up a joint, too?


How about smoking a cigarrette?

Did you read the article? The person discussed is a recovering alcoholic. She complains that the only way she can get a water is to go to the bar. (I got the impression she was afraid of relapsing.)

It's much easier to walk up to the bar and ask for a water if you're someone who's avoided alcohol throughout your life, instead of someone who's a recovering addict, who actively fears a relapse.

(And, I'll be honest, when I'm driving, or my stomach is upset, I have no problem ordering a soda water. I don't even try to hide that I'm not drinking. I dealt with enough pressure in my college fraternity that I realized that the only people who care how much I drink are alcoholics.)

So what? We have a separate bar for alcoholics? We ban alcohol? What are you saying?

Great, I get it, you have empathy...but, ultimately, if you are an alcoholic you can't avoid people drinking alcohol and trying to avoid things generally isn't a long-term sustainable strategy

Putting a few buckets around the place with ice and bottled water probably isn't too unreasonable. I think most people would appreciate that, not just the recovering alcoholics.

What gwbas1c is saying is that your question reveals that you did not really understand the linked-to article. Much of what you write is either addressed or irrelevant.

You question - twice now - if the proposal or solution to the problem is to ban alcohol. Literally no one in the article says that, including the recovering alcoholic. For example, "These scholars don't want everyone to become teetotalers, or for conferences to ban alcohol altogether. They just want to be able to tackle the social labors of being an academic without the expectation to imbibe." The recovering alcoholic also says she doesn't care if others drink at the conference.

You also only focus on the problems of alcoholics, when the article also talks about people with religious and medical reasons for not drinking.

For example, if a woman is not drinking, then (as the article points out) some people might assume that she is pregnant. I can totally see how this might influence, say, a hiring decision if the potential employer believes a woman is pregnant so wouldn't be able to teach in the upcoming term. (That would be illegal, but very unlikely to be caught out.)

You write "I get it, you have empathy". What these scholars want is for everyone, including you, to have empathy. Quoting from the article: Pearl isn't arguing that there shouldn't be any alcohol-related events, she said. She just wishes people would "be a little more attentive to what kinds of spaces we are creating, and who's being excluded."

The closest there is to a demand is the proposal that "not every moment of community would be structured around the consumption of alcohol".

Finally, the alcoholic we are talking about has developed long-term sustainable strategies, like "Buddies fetch nonalcoholic drinks so she doesn't have to approach the bar herself."

> I don't understand what the big deal is...

"When Lamson tells people that she's sober, they sometimes get uncomfortable, she said, and assume she's judging them if they choose to drink."

"Catherine Medici [...] avoids drinks because of medical issues. But refusing a drink at a reception sometimes leads to questions, which means disclosing her condition."

"...she didn't want people to assume that because she was without a drink, she might be pregnant. A mentor advised her that people could make that assumption"

> we should ban alcohol at these events because some people don't like it?

"These scholars don't want everyone to become teetotalers, or for conferences to ban alcohol altogether."

Yep, and thinking that everyone is judging you is often not a rational thought (it is probably the most common thought within a general social anxiety). The other person doesn't have to disclose anything...you just say "I don't drink"...feeling like you "have" to tell someone anything is not a thing. If someone has your testicles hooked up to a car battery then consider it but no-one is forcing her to say anything, she is forcing herself.

I come from the UK, I went to uni at a time when the drinking culture was still big...I never had a problem...at uni...in a country where it is fairly normal to get destroyed every weekend. Not once, out of (probably) hundreds of times (I did study theology briefly, the only time I remember it getting weird was with devout people thinking they had found someone with similar views).

Perhaps more to the point though: assume that someone did have a huge problem with me drinking, why do I care? Someone else thinking that I have to drink seems like an irrational belief on their part. It is never about someone saying they have a problem with someone not drinking, it is about people who don't drink thinking they can read minds.

What you are saying is that everyone else should be forced to change their behaviour so that one or two people stop making themselves feel uncomfortable. As someone who has been in this position: this doesn't work. If you feel uncomfortable and drinking is banned, you will start attributing those feelings to something else.

The reason I came to that conclusion (that banning alcohol is the solution) is that, based on the beliefs in the article, banning alcohol is the only actual solution. Presumably if something else was attempted like banning people asking each other for drinks, then they would worry about people looking at their drink.

> Perhaps more to the point though: assume that someone did have a huge problem with me drinking, why do I care?

Because, again, these are career networking events, not casual get-togethers.

> The reason I came to that conclusion (that banning alcohol is the solution) is that, based on the beliefs in the article, banning alcohol is the only actual solution.

Really? "Stop judging people who don't drink" seems like it would help a lot. Also "make it possible for recovering alcoholics to get a glass of water without going to the bar."

The question remains: how is this a big deal? So what if she thinks people are judging her. Acknowledge it, ignore it, and move on with your time. We cannot seek to universally police the behavior of others, but we can control our own reactions to it. If she is uncomfortable with answering questions about why she doesn't wish to drink, she can just respond that she doesn't want to. It really does seem that simple to me.

These aren't casual social events, they're important industry networking opportunities. Being judged there can negatively impact your career.

Also, some of the people mentioned are recovering alcoholics who just want to be able to get a drink of water without having to go up to the bar.

All of this is in the article.

The article speaks about feeling judged, not actually being judged. I am quite certain that no one at these conferences (or at social networking events of any kind which involved alcohol) cares if someone is abstaining from alcohol.

How are you certain that no one at these conferences makes these sorts of judgments?

One of the examples from the article is:

> When she was a graduate student looking for a job, Medici was especially aware of the conclusions that people might draw from her choices. She's married, and she didn't want people to assume that because she was without a drink, she might be pregnant. A mentor advised her that people could make that assumption, and passed along the club-soda trick.

I can how someone might infer that if a woman is not drinking then she is likely pregnant. I also know that pregnancy discrimination in hiring is a thing - illegal in the US, but still a real thing.

This seems like the sort of judgement that you says doesn't happen. I can't see how you can be sure that no one at academic conferences makes this sort of inference.

The world is really a much simpler place if you assume that any concerns you haven't personally experienced are imaginary.

It's not the the concerns are imaginary, it's that they are inconsequential. Everyone will have an opinion about everything they interact with; this is the human experience. You can't control the fact that others will form opinions about you and your actions, but you can control how you react regarding this.

The article isn’t calling for a ban on alcohol. It’s explaining the problems that recovering alcoholics have at academic conferences but it doesn’t suggest a specific solution.

>I don't understand what the big deal is...we should ban alcohol at these events because some people don't like it? I don't drink, I haven't done so since my first year of uni...it has never been an issue.

My experience not drinking in University was different. Occasionally people would get argumentative and angry at me when I said I wasn't having anything to drink that night. Definitely just some bad eggs but it sure didn't make me feel welcome.

I work with a bunch of mild-mannered, otherwise-polite (mechanical) engineers and I had to stop attending the company holiday parties because of the overt social pressures to drink (that would generally begin after people had tied a few back).

I don't blame you. At a work holiday party a few weeks ago I ordered a cider and some got some rude comments because I ordered something with low alcohol content (what?)

I love berry ciders, but I’ve heard people saying these are ‘for the girls’, because, well, colorful sweet stuff. The weird pressure exists even for those who drink...

I don't drink, and this has just never been an issue. I attend at least three academic conferences a year, and many more professional meetings (typically multi-day meetings with clients, sponsors, or partners).

I almost always show up to the receptions. Typically I will order a Coke or a ginger ale. I throw my drinks tickets away. I walk around and talk to people. It's never been awkward. No one has ever told me that they "felt judged" because I wasn't drinking.

I've been doing this for nearly thirty years now. I did it as a grad student. I certainly spent some time in bars, and I've carried my share of drunken grad students home. Even they never indicated that I was judging them. Because, you know, I wasn't.

If for some reason you don't want to be in bars, or around people drinking -- if you are struggling with sobriety -- then sure. I get that. But if you just don't want to drink yourself? Never been a problem.

I'm in Wall Street, not academia, and I have the same issue. I'm not a recovering alcoholic by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I do think "this is a big deal" so maybe my personal anecdote might help others in this thread sympathize with the author.

I used to drink a lot in my 20s (binge drinking every Friday and/or Saturday was the norm for a couple of years) but now that I'm in my 30s with a ton of responsibilities and need to be an actual adult, I just can't afford to be hungover the next day. It also helps that I think more longer-term and really don't want to give myself cancer.

Nearly every event or client dinner I attend has essentially an open bar, and by God I wish they didn't.

First, because no good can come out of coworkers being drunk around each other.

Second, because it's much harder to say no to alcohol (something I'm consciously trying to avoid) when I'm offered top shelf booze for free.

Third, and most importantly, because my coworkers will likely think I'm weird, anti-social or that I am judging them for drinking. Even if you think the odds of that happening are 10% (and I think the odds are more like 90% especially among older, male partners), it means a non-zero damage to my career, and I'm not willing to risk that.

So I order a glass of wine, or quietly go to the bar and order a ginger ale, or some sparkling water with lime and pretend I'm drinking alcohol....

When I moved to Seattle, I was amazed at how many social functions revolve around beer. Work functions, meetups of all varieties... Heck, my last two offices have in-office kegs.

I technically drink, I just don't particularly like most alcohol and definitely don't like beer. I don't begrudge anyone their pleasures, and I don't have a particular change I'd suggest - if I'm the outlier, it only makes sense for them to target the common case.

But I was definitely surprised at the ubiquity.

"Um, actually, I prefer a nice mead"

> "Um, actually, I prefer a nice mead"

Now that you mention it, I actually DO prefer a nice mead. Nice mead is amazing.

Get yourself 15 pounds of honey and give it a shot if you have brewing equipment or know anyone that does.

I agree. I'm more of a beer homebrewer, but I have a mead-making friend that makes some amazing meads. He manages to squirrel them away in his house so that he forgets about bottles. Then, when they turn up years later, they're just spectacular!

Im an automotive mechanic by trade, so im a little surprised to hear theres any drinking at all in academics? universities and all being rather dry places.

Machinists, mechanics, heck any blue-collar tradesman...we invented miller time. when the last deadblow gets put away and the timecards punched for the day, its almost impossible to avoid hitting a local dive for a few brews.

And if you're in-like-sin with the bar owner its even worse. I remember fixing a few compressor motors for a brew-pub...just simple bearing replacement...and if i so much as look in the window the guy hauls me in off the street to tie one on.

Come to a geology conference sometime. There's actually a big alcoholism problem in academia. There's no alcohol on campus, but grad students and professors still go drinking after work. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it is easy to slide into heavier drinking in that kind of culture.

If a machinist never wanted to go out to drink, but just wanted to get home to the family, would that person get harassed?

I found there to be a lot of drinking academics. Maybe in the US its different?

Drinking at conferences is incredibly common in the US both for industry and Academia. I've never seen anyone pressured to do so though and there is almost always at least someone who isn't drinking there.

Drinking at government conferences is more rare, at least during the official parts, because they have a policy against paying for alcohol in most (but not all) situations. People often meet up for drinks afterwards in smaller groups at the hotel bar or local watering hole.

I rarely drink, and when I drink the most it's definitely at conferences. The most drinking seems to be at UK conferences, in part because so many people head to a nearby pub in addition to the conference events.

I never thought about what it might mean for someone who is trying to remain sober. That's gotta be tough for some!

I'm not sure what the solution would be for alcoholics who need to stay sober. But for others who don't like alcohol, but still like drinking something with a similar taste while chatting with people who do drink, nonalcoholic beer is a thing and tastes about the same. My colleague introduced me to nonalcoholic beer and I was amazed, I personally like it better than many other beers, though I suppose it probably just depends on the brew.

It's just as bad in tech. I've been trying to limit my alcohol intake because I just don't care for spending money on it anymore and I overall just don't care for it anymore. The blowback has been surprising. Sly comments and side glances galore.

I've not suffered from this first-hand, but I've definitely seen it happen to other people - either bizarre, almost frat-like hazing, or the sly glances as you mention takes place at some tech events/socials when someone says they don't drink.

Not all the time. Or even the majority of the time. But it's happened more than a handful of time.

What is a problem: people pressuring you to drink, people drinking during "official" functions (outside of some function specifically designated for networking/socializing), people getting obnoxiously drunk

What is not a problem: other people drinking during a social event. Just get a non-alcoholic drink to sip on, nobody will care

Let's not overthink this. If you don't want to drink alcohol get a soda and mingle and have some fun. Or do what I do: Get a seltzer water with a twist of lemon. Tastes refreshing and looks legit.

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