Five Ways Social Media Could Damage Your Recovery

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by Paul Garrigan

Mistakes Were Made

I have made lots of mistakes with social media. I’ve posted things I later regretted, and the need to be right dragged me into some pretty ugly online disputes. This behavior probably damaged some online friendships, and it certainly increased my stress levels at the time.

The funny thing is that many of the things I used to argue so fiercely about on social media no longer matter to me or I no longer believe– that’s progress right there.

I am now more careful about what I post on places like Facebook. I try to value people more than my own beliefs and opinions. I clearly see the danger in online bickering– it harms me and it harms others.

 

Here are five ways social media may be damaging your recovery from addiction:

1. Social Media Can Strengthen Your Cognitive Biases

One way we improve our lives is by uncovering the faulty opinions, assumptions, and beliefs that have put us on a collision course with reality. There is a danger that social media could prevent from this happening – it could even strengthen our faulty way of seeing things.

If somebody challenges our worldview, it can feel like a personal attack. This means we go on the defensive – we stop being interested in the value of the other person’s point of view because winning the argument is the important thing. In this adversarial situation, we can easily ignore the weaknesses in our own argument.

If we feel the need to defend an opinion or belief, we are usually going to look for evidence to support it. The problem is the availability of so much information on the web means there is ‘evidence’ to support almost any idea – no matter how whacky or irrational it is. This gathering of evidence means we are less likely to change our mind about an idea that could be ultimately harming us.

2. Social Media Can Increase Negativity

There were too many occasions when I walked away from the computer feeling angry, offended, or remorseful. There were nights when I couldn’t sleep because my mind kept turning over an argument I had been having on Facebook or Twitter. All of this suffering was completely unnecessary.

There is a lot of negativity on social media, and this can have an impact on our mind-state. It is like the effect junk food has on the body – the just isn’t worth it. Some people argue that being able to ‘vent’ online is a good thing, but if you are already in a bad mood, this negativity may be enough to push you over the edge.

3. It Increases Your Likelihood of Hurting Others Due to the Disinhibition Effect

We tend to say things to people online in a way we would never do in a face-to-face encounter. Even if we are warm and friendly in real life, we can easily come across as mean and arrogant once we get behind a keyboard. This happens because online communication is missing important cues like body language (we don’t see how our words are impacting the other person). The disinhibition effect of sitting behind a keyboard means we can easily forget we are talking to a real human who has feelings.

4. What You Post on Social Media Could Damage Your Reputation

People have lost jobs, relationships, and reputations due to stuff they have posted online. Our beliefs and opinions may feel incredibly important to us, but there is a high likelihood we are going to upset at least some of our online friends by being too vocal about them. You have to ask yourself – is your opinion more important than these friendships?


5. You May Be Swapping One Addiction for Another

Obsessive social media engagement can just be another way of avoiding our own problems – it becomes a new addiction. Do you really want to give up alcohol or drugs just to fall into a new trap?

Here are some suggestions for how to use social media in a way that may strengthen your recovery – 5 Tips for Using Social Media to Develop Compassion

Posted in Blog.