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Anonymity and Social Media: How Not To Break Traditions in the Digital Age

So today I’m talking about anonymity in social media. Weird right? Since this is a blog, and will be posted on social media (QUICK, someone stop him). I can almost imagine the ‘comments’ now so, let’s just get down to business. I believe in anonymity, and I know that may seem hard to believe especially since I have openly written that I myself am in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, but hear me out a little bit on this, no contempt prior to investigation.

The topic is touchy when considering there are so many opinions on how anonymity and social media should be approached and what constitutes breaking the traditions of 12 Step Fellowships online. Some feel you should post no kind of fellowship jargon or quotes at all, while others feel you should be free to express yourself as long as you do not mention your fellowship by name. The best I can offer is my opinion based on what I have learned in both recovery and through experience. Keep in mind that life is never so black and white, we live in an endless gray area, and I’m not pointing any fingers or preaching, but there is a growing debate about anonymity in social media, so let us look at some common issues.

Posting Anniversary Dates

Once in a while you will see people who post their anniversaries on their social media page, and it’s always up to the individual to decide how they celebrate. After all if you just reached 30 days, 6 months, or 10 years you are a miracle and have a right to be proud of your progress. Some people will just post a number; others will go into a little more detail. However the line of breaking tradition is probably crossed when you post your clean date, and then include the name of the fellowship.

‘Sharing’ Meetings

If you go to a meeting, and this should be more common sense than anything but some are sicker than others, you should probably not post that you’re at your _ _ meeting, then ‘tag’ the location. This can bring a lot of unwanted attention to a meeting and endanger the group and the anonymity of ALL its members. It may also keep new members from coming there for fear of being exposed.

‘Selfies’ in the Fellowship

If you’re like me, you like a good ‘selfie’ once in a while, especially on Saturday! But if you want to take pictures with your fellow members of the recovery community, you should probably not put a caption that includes anything about your fellowship. Or if you get your key-tag, chip, medallion, whatever you pick up for anniversaries and they have the name of your fellowship, it is easy to see why this can be considered a breach in the traditions of anonymity to post pictures of that all over Instagram or Facebook.

‘Tagging’ Fellowship Members

This one follows up with the others pretty closely. If you are breaking your own anonymity as far as letting people on social media know you’re in a recovery fellowship that is one thing, but when you post anything involving your fellowship AND you ‘tag’ other members of the fellowship, you are blatantly breaking your anonymity and theirs! Not all the people on your friend list want the entire social network to know they are an addict or alcoholic just because you do, and even if they do it only broadens the web of people who can base opinions off of the actions of individuals.

Others believe that, as times change, people will change and the fellowships will need to evolve. In a recent poll taken by one fellowship online the results stated:

  • 34% – stated they might discuss a 12 Step Fellowship or sobriety, but never reveal they’re a member of a fellowship.
  • 24%- stated they use separate accounts to maintain anonymity while talking about recovery.
  • 42%- stated they don’t care if they break their own anonymity.

Personally, I had to form my own understanding of how to abide by traditions with the help of a sponsorship family, and I’m still learning. Based off the ideas I have – and I have made some mistakes in the past with these – and based off what I understand to be my truth now is this: I do my best to maintain a more specific anonymity. I openly admit that I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic (Duh), and I never shy away from an opportunity to talk about the gifts sobriety has given me and how my life has been blessed all thanks to my fellowship, but I am careful not to name my fellowship or members of that fellowship.

At the end of the day we are all on our own journey through this endless gray area of opinions, expectations, and of course what you can and cannot trust from the internet. Some people firmly believe there are only suggestions in the fellowship but they are in place for a reason, and should be respected without exception, others see a little more wiggle room. But keeping anonymity is done out of respect for those who came before us, for those who are friends in the fellowship, and for the future of the fellowship. If I advertise where I find my solution for recovery and ‘tag’ my photos and ‘share’ my meeting list with the name of my fellowship, it leaves that fellowship and the people involved open for interpretation to those who only know me personally- based on what I post and do in my life- and it invites assumption and prejudice for that group when I make mistakes. I know regardless I can attract better than I promote- seriously, have you seen my ‘selfies’?! Not that I am in any way an authority on these subjects, but I am #sober and I don’t care who ‘LIKE’s it.

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