Social Media and Recovery Advocacy: With Power Comes Great Responsibilty

For many of us involved in addiction recovery advocacy work, somewhere along the way we learned that our stories have power, that our voices have power.  As we have taken our advocacy efforts into the realm of social media, we have witnessed the sheer magnitude of reach contained in a single voice.  With words, pictures and videos rapidly traveling across towns, cities, state lines and oceans separating continents, we see the extraordinary power contained in our voices.  However, as the familiar saying goes, “with power comes great responsibility,” and we must always remember that every time we use our voices, we have the power to either help or harm.

Throughout the course of my own personal growth as an advocate, and with the loving guidance of wise, patient and seasoned mentors, the following are two key lessons I have learned along the way when it comes to the responsible use of power in my voice:

Owning Our Power

It is important to not minimize the power contained in our voice.  While we may not see ourselves as the inspirational and knowledgeable leaders other people see us as, it is irresponsible of us to not recognize that we are in fact often seen in this light.  Minimizing the power we have rather than owning it creates a dangerous space for us to also minimize the potential harm we can cause if we fail to be thoughtful and intentional about the messages we share.  While many of us will find ourselves asking “when and how exactly did I become a person whose voice has influence?”, we none-the-less must own that we do have this power and in turn responsibly harness it.  Once we recognize and own that our voices do have extraordinary power, we can then come from a place that allows us to be more thoughtful about where we direct that power.  It is imperative for the good of our collective efforts that we try our best to always use that power to help rather than harm the goals of the recovery advocacy movement.

Refraining from Impulsive Responses

Advocates in any arena are most often driven by personal passion.  Whether it is through our lived experience as a person in long-term recovery or as a family member of somebody who has struggled with addiction and/or found long-term recovery, our lived experiences are what drive the deep passion we have for advocacy work.  While this passion is certainly a key ingredient for any effective advocate, there are also pitfalls to be aware of that can come along with it.  Perhaps the biggest elixir for these pitfalls is our own innate emotional responses.  At times our emotions will be triggered and subconsciously move us into blindly typing a quick Facebook status message or tweet without pausing to think of the bigger picture or the implications of what we are endorsing with our voice.  At times our emotions will move us to share what could be a harmful picture, article or video without pausing first to do our homework, consider whether this helps or harms overall advocacy objectives and if this is in fact the message we wish to convey.  Using the power of our voice responsibly means refraining from emotionally driven impulsive responses and being intentional and thoughtful in all we put out there.  Again, the key question to ask ourselves is “does this help or harm the goals of the recovery advocacy movement?”

As noted in my previous blog, the advance of social media as an advocacy tool has brought with it many strengths and new opportunities.  With understanding that our stories and voices have power, having new platforms to use that power is a wonderful and amazing thing.  If we can all remember that “with power comes great responsibility,” there is no telling how tremendous a catalyst social media can be for helping our advocacy efforts.

Originally posted on Faces & Voices of Recovery’s RecoveryBlog. Faces & Voices of Recovery is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing the over 23 million Americans in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, our families, friends and allies into recovery community organizations and networks, to promote the right and resources to recover through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery.