How Social Media Can Impact Recovery

vector art of two ladies popping out of two laptops

Most people stay connected to their friends, family, and local community through smart devices and social media. The tools and features available on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make it easier than ever to communicate with others who share your interests. Unfortunately, the internet also has a dark side. The same forums that give you a space to speak your mind and converse with friends have the potential to allow negativity and bad influences into your life. You may encounter the following problematic content on social media channels and accounts: 

  • Mentions of abusing substances like binge drinking or misusing medication
  • Positive references to relapse
  • Stigmas regarding treatment and recovery
  • Disparaging comments about sobriety and mental health

Social Media and Stress

You will have to cope with intrusive thoughts and cravings triggered by acute or chronic stress during and after treatment. According to a paper published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, "some researchers have associated online social networking with several psychiatric disorders, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem." Rehabilitation facilities like White House Recovery and Detox offer treatments like relapse prevention therapy that teaches you to avoid relapse by prioritizing mental health and coping skills.

Not everyone responds the same way to social media sites. You might feel like they help you connect with friends, family, and supportive members of the recovery community. In contrast, someone else might find them highly stressful or triggering due to negative interactions. The best way to stay safe and healthy when online is to monitor your emotional cues and set clear personal boundaries that put self-care first. 

Is Social Media Leaving You Miserable? 

To determine whether you need to be worried about your social media consumption, you can monitor your emotional response using the site or app. Does social media leave you feeling miserable, sad, or lonely? If the answer is "yes," then you may want to limit your online activities. An excellent way to determine if you need to distance yourself from social media is to use a mood diary or app to track your mental state before and after prolonged social media use. If you notice a pattern of bad moods, depressive symptoms, or frustration after visiting those sites or using the apps, then you may benefit from limiting your exposure. 

How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Social Media 

Social media sites and apps have a lot of valuable tools that can help you set clear boundaries for yourself when it comes to taking time away from your screen. You can turn off notifications at specific times of the day or set yourself as "away" so others will know not to expect an immediate response. 

However, not everyone is capable of setting boundaries and sticking to them without a little extra support. If you find yourself struggling to manage your social media time, you may need to physically remove access to your smart devices during certain hours of the day or use technology to assist you. Many apps exist that can limit your time on social media by allowing you to control the following:

  • How many times you visit a specific site
  • How long you spend on the site for each visit
  • How many sites you can visit within a day

Social Media and Mental Health 

The previously mentioned research paper published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reported that "when social networks and the Internet, in general, are used to strengthen and maintain social ties, particularly within family members and close friends, the resulting social support has beneficial effects on mental health." However, "extensive use of [social networks] outside these circles might weaken existing close family and friend interactions and increase feelings of loneliness and depression."

The internet can be a source of comfort or stress, depending on the choices you make. Social media is a great way to spread support in the recovery community by making it easier than ever to get peer and professional help during challenging times. Several benefits of social media include: 

  • Being able to find and attend virtual support groups and meet with sober peers
  • Quickly connecting to trained crisis counselors during difficult moments
  • Staying in contact with your support system, including close friends, family members, or your sponsor

The Power of Social Media 

Social media can be a powerful tool when you control the amount of time you dedicate to it and ensure that you use it in ways that improve your quality of life. A 2020 research paper published in Cureus stated, "social media has many positive and enjoyable benefits" and "being socially connected with other people can relieve stress, anxiety, and sadness." The paper goes on to say that "although there is positive evidence for a link between social media and mental health, the opposite has [also] been reported." 

Balance is essential. Staying positive online and using the internet to connect with supportive friends and family members can help you feel less lonely and more confident about your recovery. Ultimately, you control how social media affects your daily life and sobriety. 

The way you use social media will determine how it influences your long-term mental and physical health. Many people find social media websites and apps like Facebook and Instagram fun places to share hobbies and updates with friends and families. Staying away from negative influences online can be done by only following people you know or trust and staying away from negative channels or accounts. You control what sites you visit and how you react to their content. At White House Recovery and Detox, we offer a variety of therapies and services like relapse prevention designed to show you how to cope with daily stressors in a healthy way. Social media can be highly stressful, but our therapists can teach you ways to set healthy boundaries and avoid being overwhelmed when using those types of websites or apps. To learn more about our services and treatment programs, call us today at (800) 510-5393.