Technology is an amazing thing. Advances in just the last 50 years have given us Star Trek level gadgets and the internet has opened up new frontiers in the realm of communication, education and employment. The advances show no signs of slowing down, and who knows where we’ll be in another 50 years?
Another recent invention that has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with one another is social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and recent additions like Snapchat are now firmly rooted in our society.
How Social Media Impacts the Recovery Community
As a recovering addict, I’m well aware that anything can become a problem, and the internet is an especially tricky realm. Internet addiction is real, and social media is sometimes seen as a barrier to connection; a cheap replacement for face to face interaction.
That aside, I’m going to talk about the positive aspects of social media, because there are plenty. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how social media and hyper-connectivity have benefited recovery. I’m going to talk about how social media is helping to connect people in recovery and how it’s even helping to combat stigma.
My Experience w/ Social Media & Recovery
Currently, I belong to three different Facebook groups that are recovery-oriented. One is a group specifically for women in recovery, the other is a support group for mothers. Another is one that provides support for those in recovery or struggling with addiction. An advantage of this group is I have seen posts where people are searching for drug detoxes and treatment. Often individuals in recovery can provide them with suggestions based on personal experience with a center.These are private Facebook groups that are not visible in my feed. I do realize that social media does present some privacy and anonymity issues, however.
A good majority of my Facebook friends are in recovery. On any given day I will see numerous posts talking about recovery topics. I also follow a few people in recovery on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ve watched convention speakers on YouTube.
Since I moved to Virginia, I was able to keep up with my recovery friends via Facebook, and Facebook messenger. I’ve even face-timed with my previous sponsors a few times.
While I think most people will agree that social media recovery is no substitute for face-to-face recovery, I do think it’s an important tool, especially for those who are isolated by either geography or other reasons. For example, although I am lucky to live in a town that although small offers at least 2 different meetings a day. I know for many this is not always the case. For the person who lives in a more remote area, or who lives in a town with few meetings, it’s difficult to stay connected to recovery. But with social media, it’s possible to “plug in” to a robust, active and welcoming community of like-minded individuals who are available for support regardless of where they live.
If you think about it, this is truly amazing.
Other situations that may make it difficult for a person to get to meetings or otherwise interact in person may include both physical and mental health disabilities. For the person who has barriers to regular meeting attendance or support, social media tools can provide the lifeline that may keep them clean and sober one more day. Tools like Skype , Facetime and Google Hangouts can allow interaction with sponsors and support groups, and could even be used to host meetings and speaker events. The possibilities really are endless!
Which Social Media Channels are the Most Recovery-Friendly?
While any social media platform can be used to encourage interaction among the recovery community, Facebook is probably the most versatile and commonly used. Facebook allows for the creation of private groups and events. My recovery community is fairly active, and regularly puts on parties, get-togethers, volunteer events, recovery birthday celebrations and outdoor activities. These are often announced via Facebook events.
While social media can be a useful tool in recovery, it can also be detrimental. It shouldn’t be used as a substitute for in-person interaction. It’s all too easy to do. I’ve been guilty of limiting my interaction with friends to “Facebook stalking” many times. In other words, I see that my friends are doing well, I “Like” their posts and I send them birthday greetings, but I haven’t seen them or talked to them on the phone in months. Still, it feels like we are connected because of our online interactions.
This is dangerous, because recovering addicts can easily become isolated and not realize it. Lulled into thinking that I am staying connected, I may go days without picking up the phone or seeing someone in person. Not good. I need to make eye contact with my friends. I need to hear their voices and I need their hugs. Social media is wonderful, but it’s not a substitute.
Finally, another way that social media and the internet is helping addicts, both recovering and non, is by playing a role in ending addiction stigma. Social media puts stuff out there. It raisesawareness. Thanks to social media, people have access to information they never had before. In the past, all you had to rely on for information was radio and television media, books and your known circle of people. Now, we have access to an endless supply of people’s experiences, opinions and discoveries. People, including public figures, are coming out online to talk about their personal addiction and recovery experiences. There are blogs, there are educational journals, there are websites devoted to addiction and recovery topics. The list goes on, but the point is that we have access to information that previous generations didn’t. Information is power, and it breaks down barriers and helps to raise awareness and end stigma that comes from a lack of good information. This is the power of social media. We can spread the word and help end misinformation, lack of education and stigma through our stories. We can reach out to the still-suffering addict in ways we never could before.
What ways can you utilize social media in your recovery? How can you reach out, stay connected or spread the word?
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.