Sunday, 8 April 2018

Social Media: Good or Evil?




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.

However....

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!

SM x

25 comments:

  1. Hi, at the moment I'm finding social media very tiring. I am on day 14 and seriously struggling, I keep having weak moments where I tell myself that just having one night on the booze won't matter but having tried to give up numerous times over a number of years, including staying AF for a good couple of months then hitting rock bottom shortly after, I know I can't succumb but it's so hard. I'm still finding the thought of an AF life very daunting, can I really do forever, it's so boring and such a long time!
    What I hate about social media is that it glamourises alcohol and on FB numerous friends post pics of a big glass of wine at wine o'clock, of them out partying with booze, etc, etc and everywhere I look alcohol is there, tempting me. I think I best just turn off my phone and become a hermit for a while!!
    Good luck everyone xxx

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    1. Keep on going - you’re doing brilliantly! The first few weeks are really hard, but it does get easier! Don’t worry about forever at the moment, just do one day at a time.... 😘

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  2. Haha, Internet family! Kids certainly keep you honest. I'm surprised though SM, usually it's the kids who are stuck with their faces in their phones. Anyway, as long as you keep posting on this fabulous blog, I'm happy. I'd rather stay away from other social media. Like you said - too addictive.

    Love

    Rob

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    1. The kids are pretty bad too, but I’m worse! Not exactly setting a good example! Love to you lovely Rob! Xxx

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  3. Hi there....I just wanted to say how much reading The Sober Diaries has inspired me. I hadn't ever considered myself an alcoholic until I started to read your book. I'm so ashamed of how out of control my drinking has become - like you I was drinking 1-2 bottles of wine per night. Reading your book has made me far more mindful of how dangerous it would be to continue doing so. Today I decided to change and so today is DAY ONE. I am also writing my own blog on this same platform. I'm mostly writing it for me but if anyone else should happen upon it then I hope it helps them too. Thank you SoberMummy!

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    1. Yay! Good luck! What’s your blog address so we can find you? Xxx

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    2. Oh thank you!! My blog address is https://winelovertosober.blogspot.co.uk/ only one entry on it so far! Planning to update every few days :-)

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  4. Great timing ... I just deactivated my facebook page yesterday. It takes up too much time, is full of rubbish, and has been involved in too much controversy recently. I do love instagram though.

    Glad you had fun in Ibiza x

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    1. Well done you! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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  5. I am so conflicted about this social media thing. As part of publishing a book, I'm now obligated to set up accounts, etc., and it is addictive! It's fun, but it's sucking up a big part of my time. And then they're tracking my every move, just as you said. I made the mistake of clicking on an underwear ad, and now I'm bombarded with underwear ads everywhere I look. Jeez ...

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    1. I bet you get glam underwear though? I get incontinence knickers!

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  6. Hi, my name is Andria and I had my last drink on my birthday 8th Jan, 13 weeks ago! I made my decision to stop drinking after seeing you on tv. Your book has been an inspiration and has really helped me. My drinking was just getting out of hand. My weekends would end up being Wednesday to Monday and one glass would become a bottle followed by large gin and tonic. I was going to bed drunk every night and waking up not remembering going to bed or talking to my sons. I am so proud of myself for not drinking but this weekend I have my first night out with the girls and I am dredding it. They will all be drinking and won't believe that I'm not! I was going to lie and say I was at work the next day but then thought about what you said and that I shouldn't have to lie! I have already said I will drive so that I can't be tempted. I am determined to reach 100 days, which will be on 19th April but I am really nervous about Saturday night.
    Help!!!

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    1. 13 weeks!! That is SO terrific! Good for you! Wishing you luck and strength with your challenge this weekend. You are (the only one) in charge of you....and look how good you've been at that!

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    2. You have done brilliantly!!! You are at the point where it’ll start getting easier, so you really don’t want to bugger it up now! Social events ARE tricky to start with, as you’ve spent years associating them with booze. I don’t lie now, but I did to start with, and you might find that easier - it’s up to you, do whatever you need to! Make sure you have a really good alcohol free drink as a prop - like a mocktail. Don’t try to stay too long. Think about how amazing you’ll feel the next morning. Next time it’ll be easier. Eventually it’ll be the new normal.... Huge hugs, and big congrats! 😘😘😘

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    3. Thankyou that's given me the boost I needed xxx

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  7. I learned how to turn off ads related to alcohol today. Go here:
    https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen

    There is a "Hide Ad Topics" section, and Alcohol was one of the options you can opt out of.

    Still loving your posts, SM! I've been here since your 3rd or 4th day. Haven't succeeded yet, but love to stay up to date with your goings on and am so thrilled about your successes. Now I feel like "I knew her when..." lol

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    1. Thanks for that Justine! I remember you from the early days! You'll get there when the time is right, I know you will xxx

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  8. Hi Clare, ive found your posts really encouraging and have helped me keep grounded in what I'm trying to do. Been following you since hearing you on radio 2 and then buying your book. Im so happy to say today is day 100. It's weird but you really did give me that kick start to change my life. Thanks so much

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    1. WHOOP WHOOP! Huge congrats on 100 days! Awesome achievement! I hope you've been celebrating! xxx

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  9. Hi SM,
    I don't usually post online but here goes....
    I started reading your book last Saturday morning (after a typical "tommy two" night - two bottles of cheap red mainlined as quickly as possible after 5pm). It was like a light switch going on in my head and I stayed in bed all day reading and reading and finished it that day thanks to an unusual child free weekend. So, so much of it resonated, (I even chuckled at the Roedean bits being a former Housemistress of House 1, and the Scottish husband - my partner is from Edinburgh).
    I have been feeling trapped for years and I finally feel...positive.
    I am on day 6, early days I know and I know there are hard times to come; but I don't feel scared or worried as your words have opened up a whole new world of encouragement and support.
    Thank you for writing and sharing, especially this post which spotlights how hard it is to get away from the constant (spurious) reminders that wine is answer...

    Big love xxxx

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    1. HUGE CONGRATS to you, I love magpies! So pleased you found me. Can't believe you were a Roedean Housemistress! Were there still cockroaches in you day?

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  12. Interesting point, Clare! I am 25 now, so - like most of my generation - I was an early adopter of social media. Interestingly, heaps of people my age have started doing "Instagram detox", quitting cold turkey for a week or longer (or forever?). There is an app called "Moment" which tracks the time you spend on your mobile phone ... I was at 4 hours every day. Can you imagine? The books I could have read!

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    1. I'm going to check out that App! Thank you xxx

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