What Healthy Social Media Use Looks Like in Addiction Recovery

Home | What Healthy Social Media Use Looks Like in Addiction Recovery

Social media is any internet platform that supports conversations, info-sharing, and web content creation for users. Social media is so much more than Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly called Twitter). Blogs, social networking sites and forums, podcasts, video and image-sharing platforms, instant messaging apps, dating apps, and virtual reality platforms are all forms of social media. These online spaces can act as rich sources of information and connection. They can also be harmful to your mental health and addiction recovery.  

Research centers like Pew Research projected that almost 70% of American adults use some or multiple forms of social media every day. Nearly 100% of teens say the same, with the added confession of using it much more than recommended. 

How Social Media Affects the Brain

Social media has a direct effect on attention and focus. Because the most popular forms of social media typically function with a wall or a feed architecture (think of your Instagram or Twitter feeds), users are constantly processing new information and images, including pop-ups and advertisements, at rapid rates. This creates a perpetual state of multitasking for the brain that can make it difficult to focus on any one activity for longer periods. 

Social media also affects transactive memory and information processing. Transactive memory is responsible for categorizing and storing information. Research shows that the constant documentation of experiences like parties, birthdays, concerts—or any memory that we want to record—actually diminishes our ability to recall it years later. Overall, this means that we’re not retaining events in our internal memory bank as we did before social media. 

Another potential area that social media seems to impact is the quantity of gray matter in the region of the brain dedicated to impulse control and good decision-making. It’s still unclear if habitual internet usage or social media use in particular causes gray matter reduction. 

The Pros of Social Media Use in Recovery

Social media is not all bad. Online communities and information-sharing have solved thousands of problems. Social media can spread awareness, put opportunities for treatment and support on our radar, and connect us to communities that help us thrive in sobriety. Many people in recovery mention peer groups that they’ve joined on social media sites, expressing gratitude and happiness for having found them. 

If you enjoy social media, the communities it may place you in could be very beneficial to your recovery. Social media is also an easily opened door to new information regarding the latest addiction education and research findings. 

The Cons of Using Social Media in Sobriety

Social media is, by design, addictive. While it’s possible to try social media and not become addicted to it, regulating the use of it can feel like an uphill battle. The creators of social media platforms want you to be engaged with their services as much as humanly possible, and they employ all kinds of techniques to keep you hooked in. Because you’re in recovery from substance addiction, you know the signs of addictive behavior, many of which can apply to social media addiction: 

  • Being unable to be away from social media for a sustained period of time
  • Using social media even though you know it’s hurting your health and relationships
  • Withdrawing from loved ones and activities you once enjoyed so you can spend more time on social media
  • Using social media to avoid dealing with stressful situations and negative emotions

Social media can also be a hit to self-esteem, as it encourages users to compare their own lives to the showcased successes of strangers, peers, friends, and family members. It helps to remember that people pick, choose, edit, and curate what they post. Most social media users have no incentive to post unflattering, unfavorable, or sad content about themselves. What we see on social media is much closer to performance art than reality. 

If you sense that you are using social media in the same way you used substances, or if you feel badly about yourself or the world after time on social media, pause and take a step back. Reach out to a friend or sponsor to talk about your feelings and figure out ways to use social media in a healthy way.  

Tips For Healthy Social Media Use in Drug and Alcohol Recovery

The key to healthy social media use is threefold: moderation, media literacy, and realism. As long as you’re using your socials for no more than 3 hours a day total and you fully understand that what you’re viewing is edited and carefully selected for publication, social media can be a fun pastime. It’s also important to know how to tell fact from opinion, a skill that many Americans lack

Here’s a quick list of tips to help you get on track with your screen time:

  1. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or restless, opt for a physical activity instead of your screen.  
  2. Try to stay within that 3-hour maximum time frame.
  3. If possible, try to use socials in the same, designated place like a common room or office. Avoid using social media in bed or while eating.
  4. Consider going for a short walk every day without your phone.
  5. Consider deleting apps from your phone and using them only on a desktop.

Learn To Use Social Media to Your Benefit in Recovery With St. Gregory

Our centers in Des Moines and Bayard are here to support you as you release addictive behaviors and habits. Whether it be social media or substances, you can find your balance with us. We hope you contact us today! 

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