Social media is a big part of life today, and almost everyone has at least one type of social media account, if not several. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become some of the primary ways that people interact with the world over the last decade, and for many people, using these apps or visiting these websites are a piece of their day, every day. Four out of every ten people around the world actively use social media, and that number continues to rise. On average, the people who do use social media have at least five social media accounts. According to recent statistics, Instagram has 800 million users, Twitter has 330 million users, and Facebook has over 2 billion users! In fact, 68% of all Americans are on Facebook, and as many as 76% of them check it every single day.
With all of this social media happening in our world today, it is clearly affecting and influencing our lives greatly. As someone in recovery, you may be wondering if social media is good or bad for your walk on that path. The answer is not simple. There are pros and cons to everything; read on to find out the ways that social media can help and harm you on your recovery journey, and then decide for yourself whether it is right for you in the here and now.
For those of you who use social media frequently, you will be happy to know that there are many positives of social media for people in recovery. First of all, and most importantly, social media can help people in recovery to connect with others who are also working on their sobriety. Whether your Facebook account helps you to build friendships with people you have met in support groups or rehabilitation, or if your Instagram account helps you to send supportive photo quotes to your other clean and sober friends, being connected on the internet can consistently help to remind you that you are not alone. If you live in a rural area and you therefore do not have access to as wide a range of recovery services as you might like, you can always hop online and reach out to others virtually. Services like Sober Grid, a social mobile networking app for people working on their recovery, can help connect you with other sober people wherever you live or visit and currently has 106,000 users worldwide.
Further, there are a wide variety of online support groups on social media, especially on Facebook. Although there are certainly people in all corners of social media that may not have your best interests in mind, the vast majority of people in these types of support groups have been through similar things as you, and want to work together to help everyone rise up and be successful in recovery. There are groups specific to various addictions as well as generalized ones for recovery of all kinds, and it may take some time to find a few that are exactly right for you. However, with some time and effort, you may find a group of people with whom you can be open and honest about your addiction, struggles, and successes along the way. Also, most rehabilitation facilities have a social media presence, so that can help you to continue to feel connected to where you took your first steps, thereby strengthening your resolve even further.
Lastly, social media can be a great place to share your milestones and celebrate with loved ones near and far, and it can help to keep you accountable, too. If all of your connections on social media know that you are in recovery, you may be less likely to publicly slip and disappoint everyone. This can help keep you on track and even in a moment of weakness can encourage you to stay on the straight and narrow, clean and sober path.
On the other hand, social media can also be a risky place to be when it comes to keeping yourself sober and positive. As we all know, social media is not always therapeutic and is not always an emotionally safe space. There are lots of ups and downs in the online world, and even adults can be at risk of cyberbullying in the social media environment. Although social media can help you connect with others, seeing other people’s supposed happiness and perfect lives can also make users feel isolated and alone. Online contact is never as good as interacting with others face-to-face, and comparing yourself to others’ successes can really bring you down.
If you have social media connections who are not in recovery, which you almost definitely do, then any posts they make that glorify substance abuse can influence you negatively, too. They likely do not even realize the ways in which their posts can affect others, but seeing people drinking and partying can undoubtedly be dangerous triggers for you. Also, it can inspire FOMO (“fear of missing out”) when you see other people having a good time with the knowledge that you cannot join in. These things can be especially risky for people in early recovery who are not yet strong and confident about their new, sober way of life, so it might be best for you to stay off social media entirely during your earliest months.
Furthermore, social media itself can be addictive. As of 2017, it was estimated that over 210 million people were suffering from social media addictions, and this can cause problems such as depression, insomnia, social isolation, and more. Focusing on social media can pull your focus away from your recovery, making it more difficult to recover successfully, so use it carefully, and be aware of the potential for abuse. It may not be as bad of an addiction as the one you are recovering from, but clearly it can affect your life in many negative ways.
What Should You Do?
It’s important to consider these things when using social media sites and apps during early recovery. Consider using it, but also be wary. Limit your time, and take breaks as needed. To ensure you are not on social media too frequently, perhaps remove the app version from your phone, and only visit these sites on your computer. Be conscious of the insincerity and even flat out lies of many people on social media, and take care to protect yourself from mean people or people who do not seem supportive. It is possible to use social media wisely if you take the steps to do so, but it is important to be aware of the pitfalls, too.
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