Today, most of life’s activities revolve around technology. Social media is the new norm of communication; and for most, completing vital daily tasks without smartphones or laptops is impossible. The majority of people have some type of social media account.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the way everyday people interact with the world. According to The National Institutes of Health, social media increasingly affects people’s daily behavior, including their attitudes about health. One in four individuals across the world actively use social media, and that number is expected to rise rapidly.1
There is some debate about the use of social media when it comes to recovery and addiction. Although there is still a stigma attached to substance use disorders, medical science now recognizes addiction as a disease that impacts the brain. It affects people from all backgrounds and not simply 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 shame that kept them from sharing their situation with others. While isolation can make addiction worse, connecting with others and creating a support system are important parts of recovery. But sharing too much personal information on social media can be dangerous.
Negative Outcomes of Social Media
Social media is not always a therapeutic or emotionally safe space in which to share life’s intimate details. In many ways, social media acts like a virtual gathering of individuals from all walks of life. If someone has a subject that is highly personal or still traumatic, it may be better to limit the audience for these difficult subjects to personal conversations in trusted settings.
Cyber-bullying is a chronic social media problem. A recent study found that up to 24 percent of adolescents had experienced bullying online.2 And while it may be more covert, online bullying affects adults as well. 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 also promote and encourage the use of substances. This is 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 difficult for individuals who are struggling to stay clean and sober and may minimize its importance.
Social media can also become an addiction. Process addictions are addictions to things not normally considered a substance but that still activate the brain’s reward system. In fact, recent brain imaging studies have shown that addiction to the internet results in the same brain changes associated with substance use disorders. And internet addiction often co-occurs with depression, anxiety and other addictions.3
Positive Outcomes of Social Media
Specialty online groups dedicated to sobriety and wellness are great resources. Individuals committed to living life without addiction offer advice and assistance to one another. Rehab treatment reviews, treatment locators, published scientific research and meeting finders help those struggling reach out for help. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social platforms help individuals in recovery to reach out and support other individuals who have similar experiences.
The power of in-person connections, as well as support from experienced recovery professionals, licensed counselors and treatment programs cannot be over-emphasized. But social media can be useful in helping those who struggle learn to talk openly about their recovery journey. If you or someone you love has struggled with addiction, consider the following resources to help aid the recovery process:
Social Media Support Groups
Sober Grid is a free program that connects you with sober people in your neighborhood and around the world. You can build sober support networks and inspire others. Share your sobriety with people today!
This radio podcast discusses alcoholism, addiction and recovery with people who’ve been there. Founder and host Shane Ramer features a variety of guests and professionals who share their stories, struggles and hopes for the future. Whether you are searching for help, or wanting to help a loved one, this podcast gives a wealth of information and inspiration for living life in recovery.
Take 12 Recovery Radio is the oldest 12-Step based recovery talk and positive music radio station in the world. Guests include clinicians, authors, recovering recording artists and celebrities. Programs feature the stories of experience, strength and hope of people who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Take 12 Radio is available online 24 hours a day.
Our Young Addicts is a community of parents and professionals concerned about the number of young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Through our website, blog, social media platforms and community events, we share experiences, resources and hope on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery. Together, we are the #OYACommunity.
I Am Sober is a motivational companion app for tracking your sobriety.
Finding Help for Addiction
If you or a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, we are here for you. Call our toll-free number, 269-280-4673, 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.
1 Grant, Donald S. and Dill-Shackleford, Karen E “. Using Social Media for Sobriety Recovery? Preferences, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Surprises from Users of Online and Social Media Sobriety Support.” Fielding Graduate University, 2015. Web. 06 June 2017.
2 “Cyberbullying Facts and Statistics.” TeenSafe. N.p., 08 May 2017. Web. 15 June 2017.
3 Augenbraun, Eliene. “How real a risk is social media addiction?” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 22 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 June 2017.