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5 ways to respect the anonymity of your facebook friends

Tradition Eleven: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and film.

-The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

With the popularity and seemingly necessary use for social media these days, the lines of confidentiality are getting blurred. I know for me, I am very open about my recovery and have told everyone in my life about my journey through active addiction to sobriety. I also have the support of living in an area known as the Recovery Capital of the U.S., which I find makes it easier for me to “out” myself. In addition, I work in the addiction field and so, I find it almost necessary to qualify myself as a certified, card-carrying member of the (recovering) addict community. I am careful not to expose anyone’s recovery and sobriety and also to not pass myself off as a representative of AA. I speak only of my experiences.

Combined with my education and experience in the social work field and my relatively newfound identity as an alcoholic/addict, I have realized my passion: advocacy. It is my strong belief and desire to reach out to other alcoholics and addicts in hiding to let them know that there is a solution which drives me. And so, I must be careful when it comes to internet anonymity. Where does helping stop and harming begin? This is something I struggle with.

When it comes to social media such as Facebook, there are some instances that are clearly a breaking of the eleventh tradition and other cases of a more subtle nature.

Internet Anonymity Rule #1: Don’t Blatantly Out Your Friends

First, never blatantly “out” other members. This sounds easy enough but then there are those inspirational posts you like to write like, “Loving the sober life” and you then tag your friends. Do they have your permission for that?

Internet Anonymity Rule #2: Don’t Hint At Others Being Members

You might think that being vague with a post is enough to protect another’s internet anonymity but, don’t take the risk. Saying things like, “At dinner with (insert name(s) after a meeting.” You may think the word “meeting” is vague enough but, you might be surprised who is in the know with recovery lingo. Or referencing pages from the Big Book to lend support to a fellow member who shared about something they’re struggling with.

Internet Anonymity Rule #3: Don’t Air Your Drama and Cries for Help

We’ve all bore witness to these posts: someone’s is having a bad day or a bad break-up and they take to Facebook to express their feelings. It is in our belief system (and perhaps nature) to want to reach out with support but, doing it online in Facebook posts is not the way to go about it. Don’t bait others into reaching out. We have phone lists for a reason. Pick up that thousand-pound phone. Don’t go showing you’re a** to the world.

Internet Anonymity Rule #4: Be Aware When Posting Photos

Sober outings and activities are great and you want to document them with photos. You post said photos and tag your friends. OK, harmless enough, right? But then you add a description like, “Loving sober life with So-and-So and Such-and-Such.” Did you get express permission from So-and-So and Such-and-Such before tagging them?

Internet Anonymity Rule #5: Don’t Be a Representative of AA

Talk about your sober lifestyle. Tell everyone you acknowledge their love and support. But don’t explicitly say things like, “Thanks to AA, I’m sober another day.” No matter how strong your recovery, it’s not what AA is about. Did you know that Bill W., who never graduated from college, refused an honorary degree from Yale because he didn’t want to break his anonymity?

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The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

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