Social media has profoundly changed the way that we interact with each other. Whereas just a few short years ago connecting with people from all around the world on an instantaneous level was thought impossible, it is now commonplace, occurring every second of every day.
Social media has also led to a proliferation of information. In the past most news and media was owned and distributed by a small number of large corporations, but through platforms like Facebook, the act of disseminating news has been fundamentally changed and more people have direct access to the current events of the world.
However, as much social media has helped to bring together a globalizing world, it also has its drawbacks. There are questions raised about how social media is affecting our ability to connect with others and what it is doing to our sense of traditional communities.
Many philosophers and psychologist believe that social media does have the power to bring us together, but often times it does not do that, it instead creates a schism in society and disrupts people’s ability to truly connect with each other. They point to studies showing how increased social media usage can lead to depression and how people do not talk to each other any more, but rather just look down at their phones and flip through Instagram or Facebook.
While the debate on what effect social media is having on us will probably continue to rage on for decades to come, and while I offer no real answers to those questions, I can however interject some thoughts on how social media can and does affect people in recovery, in particular young people.
What brought this whole topic up is the fact that I was talking to a friend of mine who is in her 20s and has a few years sober now. She was telling me that she didn’t really like being friends with people she went to high school with on Facebook, because whenever she saw their posts on her newsfeed it would make her feel less than.
She would see that they were having kids or buying a house or that they appeared to further along in their life because they didn’t fall into addiction like she did and so whenever she saw these posts, it would just make her feel like a loser.
It is interesting because my friend is by no means a loser. She graduated from a great college with a 4.0 GPA, she is working in a career field that she loves, and she’s sober, but yet social media and viewing these images actually has the ability to affect her well being.
You could say that my friend is just being too sensitive or that she maybe hasn’t come to terms with something from her past and that is why she feels that way, and maybe you’d be right, but for the fact that she is not alone in feeling this way.
Many people that I have talked to throughout my time in recovery have shared similar experiences. They have told me that whenever they go on Facebook or Instagram they begin to judge themselves harshly. They look at all of the pictures of people having fun and going to exotic places, or these see old friends that seem to be further along, whatever that may mean, and since many times it doesn’t match up to what they are currently doing, they feel like they are missing out on something, or they should be doing better in their life. This can and often times does led to feelings of dejection that are not easily overcome and if they continue to feel this way it could lead to problems in their recovery.
Besides judging themselves against others, young people in recovery can also face another dilemma through social media that can cause issues in their recovery.
For the most part our society believes that if you are young you should be out partying, but for the young person in recovery this is not an option. For the most part young people who are really involved in their program will not have an issue with this, but there are times when the constant stream of party pictures, possibly from old friends, or just from random people on Instagram, can trigger them to feel like they are missing out on something. It can in time make them forget just how bad it was when they were out there and because of this they could possibly relapse. As the saying goes people, places, and things can definitely trigger us and awareness starts the process of disempowering it.
While all of this may sound a bit extreme, or it may sound like I am giving too much credit to social media, it is all based on conversations that I have had with people about their experiences in the past. All of triggers I have listed above are things that people have experienced or are currently experiencing and so to just shrug it off as an overreaction I think is unwise.
For the most part we don’t really understand what this constant influx of visual stimuli does to the mind. We don’t know what viewing these often-staged pictures on social media, presented in a way that tells a fabricated narrative about a person’s life does to the people who are viewing it. We just simply know that it affects some people in a negative way and that when they spend too much on any given social media platform, their mental health usually suffers.
So if you find that when viewing old friend’s picture, or when looking at pictures of people partying, you begin to feel the urge to use or you just feel bad about yourself, then put the Internet down for a little while. Uninstall Instagram and Facebook from your phone and give yourself some space to decompress. This can very often go a long way in helping bring perspective to your life and it ends the compulsion to check your social media accounts every hour, even though they are making you feel bad.
Remember that social media does not equate reality. That many times the story you create, based on pictures and posts, is not even the one the person posting them is attempting to put forth. So try not to judge yourself so harshly and try to remember how far you’ve come.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.