Social media has become an integral part of all of our lives, connecting us in many different ways. Despite its convenience and entertainment value, we’ve also started to see some serious drawbacks in the proliferation of social media platforms and their pervasive use. Among the most important effects are those on our social interaction and mental health. More and more studies are finding there are negative effects of unrestricted social media use. Many of these issues can affect people recovering from addiction as well. The following are some issues related to social media that you should be aware of if you’re just starting recovery.
A number of studies have now linked excessive social media use with more feelings of depression and anxiety. For example, a study from the University of Pennsylvania divided 140 college students into two groups. One used social media as they normally would and the other limited their social media use to just 10 minutes a day, which the researchers verified using phone data. Over the course of the three-day study, the participants who had limited their social media use reported fewer feelings of loneliness and depression. The effect was especially strong among participants who had reported higher levels of depression at the beginning of the study.
Researchers believe these greater feelings of depression and loneliness have to do with the kinds of comparisons social media encourages. People typically share the best aspects of their lives on social media and omit their failures and disappointments. Comparing your own real life to someone else’s curated life can make you feel inferior. Some studies have found that these comparisons always make you feel worse, even when you compare favorably. Since many people starting recovery have feelings of depression and anxiety and these can lead to higher relapse risk, it may be a good idea to limit social media use.
The promise of social media was to bring us all together. We can keep up with friends and family in other parts of the world, see what they’re up to, and chat any time, day or night. Ironically, social media has led to less real-life socializing. That’s bad for a number of reasons. For one, it makes people feel lonelier than if they had less contact with their friends and family. One reason, as noted above, is that social media use encourages unhealthy comparison. Another reason is that online engagement replaces real-life engagement and it’s a poor substitute. Real-life social interaction is much richer. You share experiences with people you like and you communicate on more levels than just text or images. Time spent together in real life leads to deeper, more meaningful interactions. You just don’t get the same sense of connection interacting through social media and that sense of connection is crucial for a strong recovery.
One important part of recovery is managing the influences in your life. For example, it’s important to limit contact with people you primarily associate with drugs or alcohol. Many social media platforms, especially Facebook, make it hard to manage those connections. Even if you unfollow and unfriend people who might undermine your recovery, you can get dragged into third party interactions. What’s more, people love to post pictures of themselves having fun at bars, clubs, parties, and vacations. Constant exposure to friends drinking and having fun without you is not good for recovery. Since those images are hard to avoid, it may be better just to limit your social media use.
There are many compelling reasons to get plenty of sleep, especially if you’re recovering from addiction. Insomnia has been linked to a greater risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Inadequate sleep also has negative effects on cognition. Even missing a couple hours of sleep can impair your concentration, memory, willpower, foresight, and emotional regulation, all of which are crucial for recovery. Unfortunately, social media use can disrupt sleep. Many people lie in bed, endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit instead of actually sleeping. Even a brief look at your phone before bed can impair your sleep by exposing you to blue light, which interrupts your melatonin production, making it harder to sleep.
Many people are vulnerable to transfer addiction early in recovery. A transfer addiction is simply swapping one addiction for another. Quitting drugs or alcohol often leads to a persistent feeling of low mood. Drugs and alcohol stimulate the dopamine reward system far more than any normal stimulus, causing your brain to produce less dopamine. While that system adjusts, many people look for things to fill that void. It could be food, gambling, sex, or shopping–anything that gives you a little boost. It could also be using social media. Social media platforms are deliberately designed to be addictive, using tricks like variable rewards and notifying you every time someone likes something you posted. Social media platforms can suck you in, leading to the problems mentioned above.
For all the problems of social media, sparing use can have some benefits. For example, you can use Facebook to coordinate plans with friends and family. Using it to facilitate face-to-face interaction can be a positive thing. There are also online communities that support addiction recovery on Facebook, Reddit, and elsewhere. They aren’t as good as in-person groups, but they are often supportive and inspiring, especially for people in isolated areas.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.
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