I have a messy, love-hate relationship with social media. My Facebook status would describe our relationship as 'it's complicated.'
Until recently, I didn't spend much time on social media. Occasionally I'd post one of those smug family holiday pictures for family and friends (which wouldn't show the reality of flight delays, family arguments and sunburn) on Facebook, but that was it.
Then, when I 'came out' from behind my SoberMummy pseudonym, six months ago, I set up the SoberMummy Facebook page.
I love that page because it allows me to post all the fabulous articles and videos that I find, and that people kindly send me, about booze.
I love the fact that it's picked up over four thousand followers from all over the world, and I love that it's introduced me to other great Facebook communities, like Club Soda, World Without Wine and Recovery Buddha.
In many ways, social media has transformed life for addicts like me. I was WAY too scared and ashamed to pitch up at an AA meeting. I would have got there eventually, but I would probably have had to reach rock bottom first.
The blogosphere and social media make finding help before you lose everything so much easier, they make you feel less alone and provide that connection that is the antithesis to addiction.
Then, three months ago, I published The Sober Diaries, and people, very kindly, started posting pictures of my book all over Instagram, and tagging me. Except I wasn't on Instagram, so some other poor, unsuspecting Clare Pooley was being bombarded with messages about being an ex-lush.
So I set up an Instagram Page. And I discovered a whole new community of sober folks over there.
I realised that Instagram is a lovely, supportive and happy place to hang out, and it makes sober feel sexy and avant-guard.
Which is why social media is AMAZING and a huge support for addicts everywhere.
I'm still a bit cross about the way social media normalised excessive drinking for me for so long. All those 'wine o'clock' memes and 'mummy's little helper' jokes made me feel like everyone with a normal, hectic, imperfect life used wine to get through it.
I'm also increasingly freaked out by the way my social media sucks up information about me to make assumptions about what I might be cajoled into buying, and gets it wrong!
I spend a fair amount of time searching for, and reading, articles about booze so, as a result, Facebook and Instagram have me down as a huge wine fan. I get endless ads for things like wine bangles, mugs and T-Shirts with funny wine jokes printed on them and bizarre hangover cures.
Even worse, at some point I must have made a joke about pelvic-floor exercises, because every day I get bombarded with ads for Tena lady pads and - get this - 'pee-proof pants'.
I AM NOT INCONTINENT (yet).
But the worse thing about social media is that it is addictive. Super addictive. And I, my friends, am an addict.
If you have found yourself addicted to alcohol, nicotine, gambling, anything at all, it is very likely that your brain is super sensitive to dopamine.
Doing any of those things releases that lovely, feel good chemical and makes everything seem a little bit... brighter (for a while).
There is a downside, however, which is that the brain starts to crave dopamine. It wants more and more of it, which is where the addiction sets in.
And guess what happens when you check your Facebook or Instagram feed and find a bunch of 'likes'?
Yup, you guessed it, you get a dopamine hit.
This, people, is no accident. Sean Parker, one of the founders of Facebook, admitted that it, like cigarettes, was designed to be addictive. Here's what he told US news site, Axios:
"We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It's a social-validation feedback loop.... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
Well, thanks a bunch, Sean.
So, whilst I love Facebook and Instagram, they are sucking up more and more of my time, and my headspace, just like the booze did.
Today is the last day of our holiday. We've had an amazing week driving all over Ibiza, exploring off-the-beaten-track beaches and eating paella in fabulous restaurants.
BUT, several times a day one of the children will say:
"What's Mummy doing?"
And another will reply "She's with her internet family."
I let the booze keep me away from my children for too long, I can't let social media do the same.
It's time for some MODERATION! (And I'm really good at that, aren't I?)
If you'd like to read The Sober Diaries click here for UK, here for USA and here for Australia.
To listen to my TEDx talk, Making Sober Less Shameful, click here.
If you're new to the sober thing, then there's a great chat going on in the comments section of the 'Advice for Newbies' page which you can find here.
Love to you all!