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Social media has become an integral part of life over the past 15 years. People now use various social media platforms as main sources for entertainment, news, and fostering connections and relationships with others. However, as social media use has increased, so have trends for mental health disorders. 

While there has been considerable research on how social media affects different demographics in recent years, relatively little research has been done on how social media can play a role in addiction recovery. While social media may have the ability to positively impact our lives, its ability to aid our recovery may be limited. 

What Is Addiction Recovery?

Before examining whether or not social media is beneficial to the recovery process, we must first understand what recovery is. While people may have different or more specific goals, recovery, in general, refers to the ability to function in life without the use of previously-used substances. 

Often, people will begin recovery with the sole intent of becoming abstinent from drugs. Later, they learn that a healthy mental state and lifestyle are necessary to remain sober. In turn, the healthy mental state that individuals strive to achieve and maintain typically comes with reconnecting with themselves, strengthening their relationships, practicing forgiveness, and other such benefits. 

Recovery is a long and often complicated path that’s never truly over. Every day individuals may be fighting urges to revert back to their previous lifestyle. Due to this, the recovery process is extremely delicate, and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit is crucial. 

Social Media and Mental Health

Since mental health is such a vital aspect of recovery, it’s important to consider how social media may affect mental health. Research indicates that, generally, social media detrimental to mental health. According to a study published by Cureus, people with increased anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia are more likely to spend more time online. Additionally, people who spend more time on social media are more likely to self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts. 

One of the key aspects of social media is the ability to connect with others. Hundreds of millions of people take advantage of many social platforms, allowing them to connect with hundreds of millions of others. With this, one might expect social media to be a place where we can connect to individuals and share experiences we otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to. In some cases, social media does allow for this. However, more often than not, social media makes people feel even more lonely. 

Often, seeing people online who we view as “better” than us — whether that be because of financial success, social connections, or otherwise — can lead to lower self-esteem, insecurity, loneliness, and depression. 

Social Media as an Addiction

While this aspect of social media is still being researched, studies have shown that people can actually become addicted to using social media. Behavioral addictions are nothing new, as researchers have been studying behavioral addictions such as gambling for decades. However, because social media itself is new, the research on social media as a behavioral addiction is still relatively limited. 

Still, research has shown that it essentially works the same as any other behavioral addiction. The same reward system in the brain associated with nearly every addiction is also affected by social media use. People addicted to social media often lack the ability to use it in moderation or stay off of it for prolonged periods of time. When these people go back online, their brain is flooded with dopamine, a “happy” chemical often associated with drug use and other addictions. 

Additionally, chronic social media users can even experience symptoms of withdrawal when offline for too long. People addicted to social media may also see their personal relationships affected in a similar way to those with substance use disorders (SUDs)

The concept of social media addiction is significant because it’s possible that, without moderation, people in recovery may simply trade one vice for another. In order to stay sober from the substance they originally received treatment for, people may turn to social media as an alternative vice. This can negatively affect recovery because instead of truly recovering from substance use, people are simply replacing it, which does not help the core issue. Instead, people will face many of the same problems they were facing previously. 

Potential Benefits of Social Media

Though the evidence seems to be overwhelmingly against social media, there are some ways that, if used correctly, social media can aid recovery. For starters, establishing a supportive community is essential to recovering from addiction. If used properly, social media can help us stay engaged with friends, family, or peers who understand our struggles and grievances. Social media can be used to find people going through the same struggles as you, providing you with a place to give and receive help as well as strengthen interpersonal relationships. Additionally, social media is home to a plethora of information that includes tips for staying on the path to recovery, resources for people in recovery, and helpful tools and trackers to monitor your recovery. 

Social Media: Good or Bad?

Overall, social media could potentially be helpful or detrimental to your recovery, depending on how it’s used. When used in moderation and with the right goals in mind, social media could be a great way to connect with friends and family, establish new connections with peers, and obtain resources for staying sober. However, when used in excess, without proper support, or while in a negative mental state, social media could be your most significant barrier to recovery. 

Regardless of your choice on how much social media will play a role in your recovery, make sure that you have a proper support system in place as you navigate this often difficult path.

Social media has become increasingly important in our lives, and research on how this affects us is just beginning to catch up. As people begin their path to recovery, they may choose to utilize social media to connect with friends and family, establish new relationships, or explore new ways to navigate their new life. However, social media can also be a tremendous barrier to recovery as it increases anxiety, insecurities, and feelings of depression. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we understand how difficult it can be to navigate this new way of living. Our professionals are here to help you at every step, including determining the role social media should play in your recovery. Call us today at (760) 492-6509.

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