Is Social Media Helping or Hindering Sobriety?

How social media influences sobrietySocial media is a normal part of daily life for many in the United States; platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have direct connections to millions of users each year, and for a variety of reasons. For some, social media is merely a tool to keep in contact with distant relatives and traveling friends; for others, these platforms are information hubs filled with inspiration, storytelling, new-related events and more. One of the drivers of motivation for those in addiction recovery is to lead a seemingly “normal” life – to go about their day, to pay bills and, oftentimes, to do everything that their addiction prevented them from doing. How does social media fit into this?

Ways It’s Helping

Social media is just that – it’s social. Previous studies have shown that we need sociability in our lives, because as humans, we’re social beings. The support that we garner from others is what can propel us to follow through with our goals and long-term aspirations; for some, it’s even inspiration to start their own recovery support networks.

1. It’s Sparking New Ways to Connect

In 2017, Business News Daily covered the story of a young man – Beau Mann – who struggled with addiction at the age of 24. After taking part in a 12-Step program, he felt inspired. He wanted to create an online platform where those in recovery could connect with others living the sober lifestyle. In 2015, he launched an app called “Sober Grid” and, since then, the app has helped over 80,000 people connect to a sober community. What’s even better – the app now features a “Burning Desire” feature where app users who are cravings substances or being triggered can receive immediate support online, no matter where they are.

2. It’s Raising Awareness

With social media, access to information about our closest friends – all the way to their distant family – is nearly right at the edge of our fingertips. With easy access to stories and information, social media platforms are changing the way we talk about key issues in society today – such as addiction and recovery. In 2017, Adweek mentioned the fact that some photos uploaded onto social media have created major waves in communities, as they’ve shown people the reality of addiction.

3. It’s Allowing People to Support Those in Their Community</9>

A few years ago, The Atlantic highlighted the significance that social media has been playing in showing people support for sobriety. One person stated in an interview,

“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’. It’s like support groups, kind of, to see that everyone is touched by it.”

Along with the benefits of social media, however, there are some ways that it’s hindering sobriety, too.

Ways It’s Hindering

There’s always an upside and downside to entities like social media, and there’s always factors that those in recovery should watch out for while scrolling through Twitter or Facebook. Let’s take a look at some of the negatives:

1. It’s Perpetuating Social Media Addiction

In 2014, Forbes Magazine highlighted the fact that not only are we social beings, but we tend to have this inherent need for validation from others. For those who are in recovery and trying to maintain a sober lifestyle, time spent on social media could seem harmless – but it could be sparking a new addiction: an addiction to technology. In addition to sociability and validation, we tend to fear that we’re missing out on something much larger than ourselves – and that could keep us coming back for more. According to The Fix, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, once stated that Facebook should be regulated “exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry.”

2. Partying May Be Glamorized

There’s a high possibility that at some point on social media, we’ll run into images of our high school friends or current family members drinking. Our society likes to embrace drinking as a way of celebration – but for those in recovery, celebrating in that way would be a recipe for disaster. Those who are in the early stages of their recovery may become easily triggered by these posts, which is why it’s important to approach social media very cautiously (and preferably avoid it altogether at the beginning of recovery).

3. Certain Movements Don’t Make It Any Easier

As our society tends to normalize drinking culture, those in recovery may see a slew of memes pertaining to drinking wine and using other substances. In 2018, a woman who previously struggled with alcoholism talked about the dangerousness of “Wine Mom” culture and how it can lead moms to think that in order to get through the day of being a parent, they need to drink. She explained that she was 100% on board with this movement:

“That is, until I got sober, and I saw it for what it is: hugely problematic, potentially offensive and dangerous for those moms who are genuinely struggling to keep it together and might not know how or where to get help.”

Overall, it sounds like there are some major benefits – as well as some major drawbacks – to the use of social media while in recovery. Only you know where you’re at in your journey – be sure to make choices that will benefit your wellbeing, not hinder it.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.