Social Media's Impact on Recovering Alcoholics

Over the last decade, social media has become a part of our lives, affecting various aspects of our daily routines and interactions. From Myspace to Facebook and now TikTok, social media has evolved over this short period. Users are regularly inundated with addicting sounds and images that influence their daily lives. While it does offer some benefits, like connectivity and information-sharing, it also poses challenges, especially for those in vulnerable situations like recovering alcoholics. In this blog, we explore the impact of social media on those in recovery from alcohol addiction and offer ways to decrease its influence.

How Social Media and Drinking Alcohol are Connected

Research has shown that a person’s beliefs about other people’s alcohol consumption are strongly related to their drinking habits. This phenomenon is particularly evident among students.

The Social Media Influence Cycle

  • Viewing Alcohol-Infused Posts: When students see their friends' posts involving alcohol, they are likely to drink more frequently.
  • Mutual Influence: Those who drink more often post more alcohol-related content, influencing others to do the same.
  • Positive Feedback Loop: This cycle perpetuates a mutual influence, where social media establishes norms around drinking behavior.

Impact on Perceptions and Behavior

  • Creating False Norms: Constant exposure to alcohol-related posts can create the false impression that heavy drinking is more common and acceptable than it is.
  • Aligning with Perceived Norms: Misperceptions about peer drinking habits can lead individuals to increase their alcohol consumption to fit in.

Consequences for Students

  • Offline and Online Drinking: The combination of offline drinking and seeing people drink online exacerbates unhealthy perceptions about alcohol use.
  • Increased Drinking: Students may drink more to feel part of the social group, thinking their peers drink more than they do.
  • Risk of Alcoholism: This cycle of online and offline drinking creates an environment conducive to the development of problematic drinking behaviors and alcoholism, especially among college-aged individuals.

The Supportive Side of Social Media

Online Recovery Communities

Many recovering alcoholics find solace and support in online recovery communities. Platforms like Reddit, Soberistas, and countless Facebook groups provide a safe space to share experiences and receive encouragement from others in a similar position. These virtual communities offer anonymity, reducing the embarrassment that can be associated with addiction and recovery. Thanks to COVID-19, Alcoholics Anonymous members can now attend meetings virtually as well. On any given day, countless meetings across the country can be attended. Though this might not fall under the umbrella of social media, it is a way to connect socially via a media source.

Access to Resources

Social media is a treasure trove of resources for recovering alcoholics. They can access informative articles, videos, podcasts, and even virtual therapy sessions from the comfort of their homes. Apps and websites like Sober Grid and SoberTool offer tools to track sobriety, manage triggers, and connect with a sober network.

Inspirational Stories

Recovery stories shared on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok can be incredibly inspiring and helpful for those going through it. These personal narratives of triumph over addiction can provide hope and motivation for individuals struggling with alcoholism. Recovering alcoholics can also find relatable role models who have successfully navigated similar challenges.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Triggers and Temptations

Social media exposes recovering alcoholics to images and content that trigger cravings or tempt them to relapse, which is a slippery slope. Alcohol-related ads, party photos, or posts by friends celebrating with alcohol can be detrimental to recovery. Online pressure to conform to a drinking culture can be overwhelming and counterproductive as well. Studies have shown that even just seeing an image of alcohol can be enough to trigger a craving.

Comparison and Self-esteem Issues

Social media portrays an idealized version of people's lives, even when it’s far from reality. Recovering alcoholics might compare themselves unfavorably to their peers, leading to feelings of inadequacy or depression. In addition to this, the constant pursuit of validation through likes and comments can contribute to low self-esteem and emotional vulnerability.

Negative Peer Influence

Peer pressure is not just limited to physical interactions. Online friends and acquaintances can unintentionally exert influence on an individual's sobriety. Interacting with friends who continue to drink or encourage drinking can undermine a recovering alcoholic's progress and give them a false sense of security with alcohol.

4 Strategies for Harnessing Social Media's Positive Potential

1. Build a Sober Support Network

  • Join Online Recovery Communities: Find online recovery communities that align with your goals and values. These can include forums, social media groups, and recovery-focused apps.
  • Connect with Supportive Individuals: Engage with others who understand your journey and can offer support and accountability. Sharing experiences and challenges can foster a sense of belonging.
  • Participate in Recovery Events: Many online communities host virtual events, such as workshops, meetings, and webinars, which can provide additional support and resources.

2. Curate Your Social Media Feed

  • Unfollow/Mute Triggering Accounts: Unfollow or mute accounts that regularly post content triggering alcohol-related cravings or negative emotions. This helps reduce exposure to harmful influences.
  • Follow Positive Influences: Follow accounts that inspire you, share valuable resources, or focus on wellness and sobriety. Positive content can provide daily motivation and support.
  • Engage with Educational Content: Seek out and engage with content that educates about recovery, mental health, and personal development. This can enhance your understanding and commitment to sobriety.

3. Mindful Engagement

  • Limit Scrolling Time: Be conscious of your social media usage. Limit your time spent scrolling and prioritize real-life interactions and activities that promote your recovery.
  • Set Time Boundaries: To avoid compulsive or impulsive behavior, consider designating certain times of the day for social media use.
  • Prioritize Offline Activities: Engage in activities that support your recovery, such as exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. Balance online engagement with offline wellness practices.

4. Seek Professional Help

  • Consult a Therapist or Counselor: If you're struggling with the impact of social media on your recovery, consult a therapist or counselor with expertise in addiction and mental health.
  • Develop Coping Strategies: Professional guidance can help you develop coping strategies to manage social media use effectively. Therapists can provide tools to handle triggers and stress.
  • Address Underlying Issues: Therapy can also help address any underlying mental health issues contributing to substance use. Comprehensive care can support long-term recovery.

Final Thoughts

Social media, like any tool, has both positive and negative aspects. For recovering alcoholics, it can offer a valuable support system, access to resources, and inspirational stories. However, it also presents challenges in the form of triggers, temptations, and negative peer influence. Adopting strategies to harness the positive potential of social media and mitigate its drawbacks can allow individuals in recovery to navigate this landscape successfully. Social media can be extremely harmful to any person, regardless of whether addiction is present.

We Can Help!

Online Treatment Programs provides Teletherapy Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs allowing participants to receive intensive therapy with our licensed therapists and psychiatrists without having to leave home.  If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, panic attacks, PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse, or other mental health or addiction issues, we can help.  To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our teletherapy programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

MHThrive provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit our website to learn more.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any severe mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.


Setting Healthy Boundaries With Social Media
How to Know When It’s Time to Take a Break From Social Media
Social Media May Increase Risks for Mental Health Problems
The Negative Impact of TikTok on the Mental Health of Teenagers


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Online Treatment Programs

05 June, 2024

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