Using social media in recovery can feel like a vulnerable move for people who are new to sobriety, but it can also be a boost of confidence necessary to keep them accountable.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can help build the kind of digital support system that can hold a recovering user’s hand as they embrace their recovery and become more social.
Though some people might say social media discourages online users from believing they’re living good lives compared to their friends’ status updates, the ease of digital communication can allow old and new friends to reach out to people in recovery and give them the support to remain sober.
In Active Addiction, People Stay Quiet Online
It’s estimated thatmore than 20 percent of the world’s population uses social networking to at least some degree, and 56 percent of Americans have at least one profile on a social media site. The largest age group is 18 to 29, making up 67 percent of all social media users.
With the advent of Facebook, people can now keep a digital track record on their “friends,” be it their neighbor or third-grade classmate. People post photos of exciting activities or new chapters in their lives, like their trip to the Bahamas or baby gender reveal parties.
They share political opinions and articles from Vox or HuffPost. They like or “react” to funny and sad posts, and they say “interested” to every event, even ones they don’t plan on going to.
What most people don’t do is share their downward spiral into drug addiction.
In Stephanie Stark’s article, “Watching Friends Recover From Addiction on Facebook,” posted in The Atlantic, she writes about former high school classmates’ descent into heroin addiction.
There’s a pattern among active users who begin to shy away from social media platforms such as Facebook because they’re still in denial about their addiction. They may be facing a quarter-life crisis and compare friends’ accomplishments with the lack of their own.
A part of why people don’t share their addiction via social media mainly lies in shame. Not many people would use the word “proud” when admitting to having an addiction, so it’s not likely that you’ll see your childhood friend post about stealing money for pills on Facebook.
Some Who Do Reveal Addiction via Social Media Met With Silence
The other issue is stigma rather than support.
You might have a friend who posts a lot of “party” pictures, seeing their head in the toilet or seeing them wasted or high while hanging out on the club scene. While this might have been acceptable in college, photos of reckless, drunk behavior aren’t held up to cheers and hoorahs anymore as the years go on past graduation.
And while some might say social media would give more opportunities to intervene an addiction once a pattern is spotted, the opposite is true. Posting about the throes of addiction will scare people away, not lead them to reach out.
“You can’t tell people, ‘I’m so sick, I’m dying, please give me money so I don’t have to go f*** the dope boy or go rob somebody,” said “Angela,” a former classmate of Stark’s, in the Atlantic article.
Because the reality is, while social media can give a peek inside someone’s life, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. The intensity and logistics of addiction will not be understood online, not by someone who feels helpless behind a computer screen.
How Using Social Media in Recovery Gets People to Speak Up
Where social media fails in helping those who struggle through active addiction, it can hugely benefit those who are new to recovery and eager to start their lives over.
“For heroin addicts, who must cut ties with their communities of users as part of recovery, Facebook is both a support system, connecting them back to relationships they had before their addiction, and a venue that helps others understand the fragility of the recovery process,” Stark writes.
Social media platforms allow people in recovery to call for help, share their struggles in recovery, and also have written accountability for their sobriety. Being able to post a status update for being 30 days sober to everyone you know is a lot more encouraging when met with an onslaught of heart reacts and supportive comments telling you to live positively and bravely day by day.
People in recovery can also keep better in touch via Facebook through scheduled events, forum groups, and live feed posts. In that, if a person didn’t have many friends to reach out to after rehab, they can easily build an online community and introduce themselves to nearby residents who are supportive of their journey.
Social media can motivate and inspire other people to pursue recovery, and as Stark’s friend, Angela, puts it, “You’ve seen that person down at their worst, and then [when] you see them looking happy, it’s like, ‘I can do this, too.'”