Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recovery and Social Media in the Digital Age

In dealing with addiction, social support is one of the key elements that helps bring addicted individuals out from the depths of a hopeless state. New advances in technology have aided the ability to find social support in one of the most unorthodox places, the internet.

A medley of networks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other such sites, the nature of social support is changing. Where it used to be that one needed to have access to a phone to talk to another person, now, all that
is required is a computer. This has a huge impact on the way that we stay connected with one another, being able to communicate without even saying a word. These types of networking sites are connecting people from all over the globe with one another, further broadening the social horizon.

Recovery specific websites exist, such as InTheRooms.com. Here, an individual may remain anonymous while partaking in an online community. He creates an alias, a profile, and links up with his community to gain social support. This is huge for the recovery world. Previously, twelve step meetings were confined to face to face interactions. Now, an exceeding number of people are meeting online to access a regular dose of recovery. While most of these meetings are held through chat rooms, there are recovery related meetings available through Skype, an interface system which utilizes cameras to have digital face to face interactions. Lists of digital twelve step meetings are available here, including AA, NA, Al-Anon and even a weekly Self Mutilators Anonymous meeting.

Not only are online meetings available, but, more importantly, social support is available 24 hours a day. When one is not able to access a meeting, he may gain the support through social networking sites and online recovery communities. For some, it is easier to log on to the computer than it is to pick up the telephone in times of crisis. In fact, in the recovery community, members discuss the metaphorical “1,000 pound telephone” when describing what it feels like to reach out by phone when an emergency or troublesome situation arises.

Even with this progress, one website describes the down side to these forms of media. An article in Social Work Today describes how the role of social networking websites in the recovery community can be over-emphasized. In fact, one person interviewed stated that these forms of social media may actually serve the same function as drugs in the recovering person’s life by pulling him or her away from the relationships that really matter. In essence, this social worker is describing a cross addiction to the internet which, in reality, is not unfounded. Newly sober drug addicts often try to fill the void from drugs and alcohol with other things.  However, this fact does not suggest that, on the whole, social networking is harmful.

Even though there are potential negatives in this new technologically advanced world, I say that the online recovery community still has its place. After all, it can serve an essential function for those who cannot physically get to a meeting or do not have access to a telephone.

As far as the ramifications go, I am going to leave that up to you, dear readers. What do you think the significance will be of digitizing recovery? Will there be a day when face to face twelve step meetings become obsolete? How does the internet affect personal relations on a whole? Please let me know what you think, as for now the only perspective I have is my own.

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