In many respects, social media revolutionized how we communicate with each other. At their best, these online interactions connect us with people in our community and around the world in ways we never could have imagined. However, there are valid reasons to closely evaluate the pros and cons of social media if you’re creating a meaningful sober life.
The Role of Social Media in Recovery
One of the primary reasons why people look online for support is to reduce loneliness. Many individuals with substance or alcohol use disorder suffer in isolation, especially when they have emotions such as insecurity, grief, shame, and guilt. Although they may have the tools to healthfully process these feelings and move on from them, there are some days when life is overwhelming and compromises an ability to cope.
Reaching out through social media channels such as Twin Lakes Recovery Center Facebook page, Reddit’s /r/stopdrinking support group and chat room, online AA and other 12-Step forums, the app Social Grid, and #soberliving on Instagram provides affirmation of your choices.
While being online should never replace quality face-to-face interactions, a supportive cyber community frequently offers the opportunity to:
- Rise up from the mires of complicated emotions and prevent relapse.
- Talk with people who completely understand where you’ve been and where you want to go.
- Develop a larger support network that stretches beyond locality limitations.
- Find better ways to deal with triggers.
- Learn about new treatments, holistic approaches, and other methods benefiting recovery.
- Stay in touch with family and friends who want to help you.
- Have an immediate outreach for special populations, such as military personnel struggling with thoughts of suicide.
- Celebrate the sobriety success of others and how it influences your path.
- Find resources for jobs, volunteer and other community activities, and positive in-person socialization.
In some cases, when people on social media are mostly anonymous, self-disclosure is easier and almost confessional. In other situations, the exchange of frank observations between former addicts is exactly the “tough love” some people respond to when they recognize they can’t hide from themselves or their behaviors anymore—especially if these are actions they engaged in with people who know them personally.
What to Watch Out for While on Social Media
Without a doubt, you need to be discerning as to how you use social media, especially if you’re new to recovery.
- Review USA.gov’s safety tips so you can protect yourself from scams. Even if you’ve been online for a while, something is always changing, and identity theft is still a common crime.
- Don’t believe everything you read, especially if it involves a meme, fake news, or financial promises. There are always reputable outlets you can use to verify the information found online, such as long-standing international news agencies, Politifact, and Snopes—or even a search under your browser’s “news” tab, such as Google News.
- The same diligence should be applied when you see posts about addiction and recovery. Major health organizations and accredited treatment centers have qualified research that can support or refute social media claims.
- Keep in mind that when you sign on to other websites using your social media username and password, it might seem convenient at first because it’s only one login to remember. However, that website now has access to your personal details and list of friends list—information you wouldn’t share otherwise.
- Also beware of online pop quizzes, such as “See What Kind of Tree You Are by Birth Month.” These and other advertising tactics also cultivate your personal information, known as “data mining.”
- Carefully assess the privacy settings for every social media platform you want to be on. It’s better to be conservative about who you allow to read your posts. This is especially important if your recovery isn’t common knowledge or you have workplace concerns. Some people even use aliases to further protect their identity.
A Few More Tips
Quite often, people who meet online would like to get together offline at some point. While this can be the start of a wonderful friendship, it’s wise to let someone else know of your meeting plans—or even bring that person along. Until you have a chance to really get to know someone beyond their online persona, keep your privacy and safety a priority.
Some people in recovery feel that browsing social media actually contributes to feelings of lower self-esteem because they compare their lives to what others post online. Remember: don’t believe everything you read. Every human being has trials and tribulations to work through. What someone shares on Facebook or Instagram might not be the whole story. You can stay friends with someone but hide their posts if you feel overwhelmed.
Be aware that cyberbullying is a real concern, and “trolls” love to use social media platforms to argue with people. You have every right to not engage in online discussions if the atmosphere doesn’t feel supportive. Certain platforms, like Twitter, allow you to block people that seem to always want to stir up trouble on your feed. And every platform has reporting options to alert company moderators to examine posts and remove people if they’re bullying.
Finally, recognize that being on social media isn’t for everyone. Monitor your usage and when you’re most likely to get online. If you’re concerned about how you feel or the time you spend scrolling, do a digital detox to evaluate if social media is right for you.
Twin Lakes Offers In-Person and Online Support
How social media helps recovery is a great topic to discuss in one of our weekly aftercare meetings. We also have a special private Facebook group, Friends of Twin Lakes Recovery Center. We always want you to feel supported and encouraged through sober living, so try one of these resources today.
Social Media Use in Recovery: What You Need to Know. St. Joseph Institute.