Thanks, @Kara, for raising this topic.
I thought your talk at CLS was perfectly balanced on this topic. In my mind, the focus of a social event should be on the social interaction, getting together, and sharing ideas, stories, and experiences.
I think we should be open to people lubricating the evening in whichever way they see fit, be it beer, soda, wine, water, or whatever else.
I look at this from two areas:
- Ensure there are different options available. Don’t just presume the non-drinkers will all drink soda.
- While there will always be an element of people celebrating with alcohol (e.g. having a round of shots to celebrate something), I think we should be open and accepting of that so long as people are being civil and courteous.
Now, these thoughts don’t deal with the element of people who have experienced trauma because of alcohol (e.g. recovering alcoholics). While I sympathize with those folks, I think it would be sub-optimal to overly restrict a social event in terms of alcohol because of those folks, who are likely to be in a fairly small proportion of the overall attendees.
So, my overall summary here is: provide plenty of options for all tastes, encourage people to focus on the social interaction (no computers!), and just require courtesy and respect from attendees.