Social Media and Recovery: How it Helps, How it Hurts

by Renee W.

I remember, early in recovery, logging onto Facebook and scrolling through my feeds.

A friend posted a picture of herself looking happy and gorgeous, drinking a glass of wine at a party that I was clearly not invited to. Not that I could have gone anyway.

I felt sick to my stomach and fell into a night of sadness and self-loathing.

A picture of a mom with her cute, well-behaved (seemingly) kids and I would sink into a depression of how I had failed my own kids when I was actively living out my addiction.

A recovery friend would post some corny AA slogan as if it were so profound. That, too, would infuriate me.

“Easy Does It?” Yeah right. This person obviously has no clue about anything. Must be nice to be so happy, joyous, and free, I would mutter as I sunk into more sadness.

Social media is everywhere, and in theory, it sounds like a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, or even build your business or network.

LinkedIn is a tool for finding a job or furthering your professional career. Pinterest is a social media platform where you can post “pins” of ideas for hobbies. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are more for social aspects, such as keeping up with friends and families.

Undoubtedly, social media also has its positives for those in recovery.

Benefits of Social Media in Recovery

Social media may be beneficial for those in recovery in these situations:

  • You use social media to stay connected with family and friends who want to support you in your recovery.
  • You are a part of social media recovery support groups that help you when you’re struggling with sobriety-related issues.
  • You read and/or write about recovery and share it with others.
  • You use social media to pursue activities that help you in your sobriety, like new hobbies.

All of these are good reasons to use social media.

In all of them, you are supporting your recovery. You can also use social media sites for those in recovery. For example, Sober Grid, is a place to find, connect, and share with other people around the globe in recovery.

It also offers 24/7 support from Certified Peer Coaches to help with sobriety-related issues.

However, social media can also hurt your recovery if you’re not careful. Here are some examples:

Negatives of Social Media in Recovery

  • Seeing pictures (including memes) about drinking/drugs triggers unhealthy emotions or cravings.
  • You’re being contacted by people who are not supportive of your recovery.
  • You feel depressed or discouraged while using social media.
  • You find yourself comparing yourself with others on social media.
  • You are on social media excessively to where it interferes with other areas of your life.

Research has been done on the impact social media can have on your mood. For example, this recent study examined the link between Facebook use and depression and found that Facebook may increase the risk of mental health problems, detract from face-to-face relationships, lead to Internet addiction, and erode self-esteem.

Social media can also promote social isolation, which can be deadly to your sobriety. Being connected to others in recovery is vital to the recovery process, and social media, which is meant to connect people, often does the opposite.

Then, there are the comparisons.

As we’re scrolling through feeds, we sometimes find ourselves comparing ourselves with others. We make all these judgements about where we are in life based on what we see from others behind a screen.

Seeing others’ successes can make us feel as though we don’t measure up, and let’s face it: all we see on social media are the “best parts” from others. Rarely is social media used for authenticity.

How to Safely Use Social Media in Recovery

If you’re finding that social media is negatively impacting your sobriety, take a break.

That’s what I had to do.

I deactivated my social media sites for at least six months, and it did wonders for my sobriety.

First, I realized how much extra time I had! Social media can be a time and energy zapper, and without it, you will have hours to fill. I tried to work on myself during my social media hiatus and did a lot of reading, writing, and connecting with others in my life who supported me.

I learned how to have meaningful, authentic, face-to-face, and phone conversations, something I did not know how to do before.

I also found some newfound passions that I didn’t know I had before: gardening and cooking.

If you don’t think giving up social media entirely is for you, limit your time.

Give yourself a certain amount of time each day to spend on social media sites, and make sure you actually time yourself since it’s easy to lose track. When you’re time is up, log off.

You can also join recovery groups and see if they are a helpful tool for you. Sometimes online recovery groups are extremely helpful in sobriety, especially these past few months with self-quarantining from Covid-19.

Also, avoid triggers on social media. If you see a post that bothers you, unfollow it. There’s also a convenient “delete” button that removes those on your friends’ list that may not be helping your sobriety.

Ask Yourself This Question

unwinding from social media

The best way those in recovery can use social media is to ask yourself, “Is this hurting or helping my sobriety?”

Your sobriety is the most valuable part of your life and should be guarded with everything you have.

If social media is hurting your sobriety, delete it right away and focus on true, authentic recovery. Social media should never replace face-to-face support and the gifts that sobriety brings.


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