Social Media’s Impact on Recovery
As ubiquitous as it has become on the cultural landscape, the narrative surrounding social media is not always positive. A large part of the issue is that social media can so easily be weaponized. There have been numerous news reports about teens getting bullied on social media, culminating in a string of suicides that have resulted in a somewhat dark cloud hanging over most social networks.
And it’s not just people who are being bullied on social media; politicians, public figures, and even Hollywood films are being torn down on social media. Plus, terms like “social media addiction” have been thrown around, suggesting that the use of social media can become nearly as destructive a force on one’s life as alcohol or drugs.
What’s the Point of Social Networking?
If social media can be weaponized to such a degree, what’s the point of even using it?
Are those of us who are on social media merely playing with fire? Is using social media the digital equivalent of experimenting with alcohol and drugs?
To answer these questions, we must take a step back and look at the bigger picture to assess the purpose of social media. When social networks like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter emerged, the idea was that these websites provided a digital space where people could connect to others. Of course, the means of connection varied from one network to another.
For instance, MySpace was largely about personal expression as well as networking with friends and people with shared interests. With Facebook, the idea was to have a forum with which to connect with friends while also reestablishing relationships with long-lost friends and family members; in short, Facebook was about reconnecting. Meanwhile, Twitter and Instagram are networks that encourage expression through brief haiku-like posts and images. These networks allow us to follow and be followed by others according to shared interests.
In theory, social networks facilitate connections with similar-minded individuals regardless of where they live in the world.
By creating a digital version of a social environment, the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social networks are essentially making the world much smaller and putting potential friends and connections at the furthest corners of the globe within reach.
Social Media is Aiding Recovery
Considering the expansiveness of one’s reach via social networking, it stands to reason that there would be a lot of practical applications for social media. Of course, we’ve long since known that social media provides a place for insecure and introverted individuals to hone their social skills, becoming more comfortable in their interactions with others. However, the aspect of social networking with the biggest implications for recovery is how easily like-minded individuals can connect when using social media.
There have been a number of course to recount the ways that social media can inhibit or endanger a person’s recovery, but there are ways social media can be beneficial to recovery, too.
Recovery is often seen as a lonely experience, especially when you consider the intensity of emotions that are no longer dulled by alcohol and drugs, the inherent difficulties of detoxification, the inevitable cravings that can happen seemingly without provocation. For someone in recovery, it’s easy to feel like there’s nobody who truly understands what he or she is experiencing and the difficulties he or she faces each day.
By using social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, individuals can connect to others in recovery, offering solace in the fact that there are many others with whom they can talk about the rehabilitation process and their shared experiences.
Whether through a clinical treatment program or a twelve-step support group, an individual’s recovery can be made or broken by the level of support he or she has. In fact, one’s support network is often cited as one of the most important pieces of the recovery puzzle. While family members and close friends are ideal candidates for an individual’s support network, not every individual’s circumstances entail a built-in support network; for such individuals, they might need to supplement their support network by branching out and networking.
Understandably, social media is an ideal source for such individual as things like online forums and community-led social media groups can become an invaluable part of one’s support system in recovery. In treatment, many individuals form relationships with peers as they help one another to persevere through their respective programs. But due to the fact that it’s quite common for individuals to travel great distances to attend an addiction treatment facility, patients don’t often return home to the same communities and might even have great distances between them. However, social networks make it much easier to maintain relationships established while at rehab or in other recovery programs. In this way, social media is aiding recovery.
And these are just some of the numerous practical applications of social media for recovery. Again, it’s important to be aware that social networking can pose a threat to a person’s health and recovery, but when used appropriately, social media can actually be of great value and contribute to an individual’s lasting success in recovery.