In this modern day, all of our activities revolve around technology. Social media is the new norm of communication, and most people would not be able to work or complete vital daily tasks without their smartphones or laptops. Many people accept that most individuals have some type of social media account: whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or a similar platform, social media has become a way that everyday people interact with the world. The National Institutes of Health has stated, “”social media are increasingly affecting people’s everyday behavior, including their attitudes relevant to health.” Currently one in four individuals across the world actively use social media, and that number is expected to rise rapidly.1
Is it possible to engage in addiction recovery and safely connect with others online? There is some debate about the use of social media when it comes to sharing recovery and addiction. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to substance use disorders, but medical science has identified that addiction is a disease that impacts the brain, that is affects people from all backgrounds, and that it is definitely not an issue of being morally or ethically correct.
This new understanding of addiction as a medical condition has helped many individuals step out of the unnecessary shame that kept their difficult condition from being shared. While isolation and lack of support can make addiction worse, connecting with other people and gaining a support system are proven to help individuals recover. While a sense of feeling connected is an important part of addiction recovery, there are some negative outcomes and positive outcomes of social media that should be considered.
Negative Outcomes of Social Media
Social media is not the most therapeutic or emotionally safe space in which to share intimate details. In many ways, social media acts like a virtual gathering of individuals from all walks of life. Therefore, if an individual has a subject that is highly personal or still traumatic or otherwise upsetting, it may be better to limit the audience for these difficult subjects or consider limiting those subjects to personal conversations in trusted settings.
Cyber-bullying is still a problem online. A recent study found that up to 24 percent of adolescents had experienced bullying online.2 This type of bullying does not just impact young people. While it may become more covert, online bullying affects adults as well. However, even without bullying, it may be easy to become fooled by constantly upbeat posts and edited photographs– all which can make any person feel that “everyone else” is living a more glamorous or happy life.
Social media can promote and encourage the use of substances. This can be especially difficult for individuals who are in early recovery or active addiction. Photos and posts of parties and jokes about substance use have been shown to gradually ease perceptions of these serious issues. This can be very difficult for individuals who are struggling to stay healthy and it may minimize the importance of recovery and sobriety.3
Another disadvantage of social media is that it can be addictive itself. Process addictions are addictions to things that we do not normally consider as drugs but that still activate the brain’s reward system and may lead to behavior and lifestyle problems. Process addictions can include things like gambling addiction, shopping addiction, sex addiction, and, yes, even internet addiction. In fact, recent brain imaging studies have shown that addiction to the Internet results in the same brain changes associated with substance use disorders. Furthermore, addiction to the Internet often co-occurs with other addictions, depression, and anxiety.4
Positive Outcomes of Social Media
Like any good tool in a toolbox, social media is simply an object that can be used to achieve a variety of goals. Social media and the internet can be used for positive actions and interactions. There are a number of ways, when used wisely, that social media can help individuals in recovery.
There are specialty groups online that are dedicated to sobriety and wellness. In fact, there is a world of individuals who have similar goals of living without addictions who offer advice and assistance to one another. Rehab treatment reviews, treatment locators, published scientific research, and meeting finders are all at easy-access for immediate reach online.2
The ability to connect with other people who have similar experiences is a very important part of addiction recovery. While isolation can decrease mental wellness, connection and support can enhance mental wellbeing, and help prevent relapse. The Internet has revolutionized human ability to share ideas and information.5 Facts can be double-checked, and movements may be led by everyday citizens. Thus, myths and misunderstandings about addiction can be readily de-bunked, and truth can be shared. Social media allows individuals in recovery to effectively support other individuals who have similar experiences.
No matter how you feel about social media, it looks like this form of communication is here to stay. If you or someone you love has struggled with addiction, consider the following resources to help aid the recovery process. In the meantime, be sure to use the Internet wisely and remember the power of in-person connections and the importance of also gaining support from experienced recovery professionals, licensed counselors, and treatment programs as needed.
Support Groups in the Media of Sobriety
- Sober Grid: Meet friends in sobriety
A free program that connects you with other sober people in your neighborhood, as well as the rest of the globe. You can build sober support networks and inspire others. Share your sobriety with people today!
- That Sober Guy Podcasts
A radio podcast discussing alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. Shane provides an opportunity for others to speak, share their story, their struggles, and hope. Whether you are searching for help, or wanting to help a loved one, here you can talk to others to reach a healthy full-life in sobriety.
- Take 12 Recovery Radio
Take 12 Recovery Radio is the oldest Twelve Step based Recovery Talk and Positive Music Radio Station in the world. Guests include clinicians, authors, recovery recording artist, celebrities, and the stories of experience, strength and hope of people who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Your host, the Monty’man & Take 12 Radio are available online 24 hours a day.
- The Addiction Show
A series of YouTube videos about addiction and recovery, along with an in-depth website that is designed to connect individuals with resources and information.
- Heroes in Recovery
Heroes in Recovery is a movement ignited by Foundations Recovery Network and the widespread community of those who are in recovery from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Share your story, join the 6K honoring our heroes, and break the stigma of addiction!
- Our Young Addicts
Our Young Addicts is a community of parents and professionals concerned about the number of young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Together, through our website, blog, social media platforms and community events, we share experience, resources and hope on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery. Together, we are the #OYACommunity.
- I Am Sober App
I Am Sober is a motivational companion app for tracking your sobriety.
- The Life Challenge
We get that life after treatment brings upon its own new set of challenges. Sometimes the plan doesn’t work out, and sometimes a whole new problem arises. That is why we invite you to become part of The Life Challenge, also known as The LC. At the LC we get that the journey of recovery isn’t easy, but we are here for you. We encourage you to view life as a challenge and take it by the horns. We will celebrate your accomplishments and take on your challenges.
1. Grant, D.S., Dill-Shackleford, K.E. 2015. Using Social Media for Sobriety Recovery? Preferences, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Surprises from Users of Online and Social Media Sobriety Support. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/social-media-sobriety.pdf
2. Sobriety in the Digital Age. The Canyon Malibu. Retrieved from: http://thecanyonmalibu.com/sobriety-digital-age/
3. The Role of Social Media Promoting Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction. 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.recoveryunplugged.com/social-media-promoting-alcohol/
4. Augenbraun, E. CBS News. Aug 22, 2014. How real a risk is social media addiction?http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-real-a-risk-is-social-media-addiction/
5. Laurie, M. How Social Media Has Changed Us. Mashable. Jan 7, 2010. http://mashable.com/2010/01/07/social-media-changed-us/#42Xg9Mf4g8qb