Anonymous Facebook Etiquette
Don't "like" me because I'm sober in AA. And stop outing me with your clicks. Follow these five steps toward social-networking propriety.
When you update your Facebook status to announce that you have another year’s sobriety, you accomplish two things. First, you break the 11th Tradition. Second, all of our mutual friends in the program rush to "like" and congratulate you, like moths studding the burning glass of a halogen lamp. Well, not me. Sorry, but I’m not putting my full name next to the phrase "sober." Facebook is porous. Everyone is on Facebook. If my boss is one of our mutual friends and I congratulate you on your sobriety, she may well make the leap of logic to assume that I’m "one of those AA people." And that’s none of her business.
Your alcoholism and your recovery should not be public property. When you announce your affiliation with AA online, that’s what it becomes. Thanks to a vast erosion in privacy laws, everything you say and do on Facebook is trapped in amber for perpetuity. Don’t make your AA chip your profile picture (argh)! Don’t announce that you just finished your Fourth Step. What happened to the good old days (okay, now I am officially a bleeding deacon) when we belonged to a virtual secret society that met behind closed doors and didn’t trumpet the fact that we are recovering from a deadly, highly stigmatized disease?
Okay, so you want to tell the world that you’re in AA. Fine, have at it. Re-read Traditions Eleven and Twelve and make up your own mind. But leave me—and other AA members—out of it. Review and avoid the following Facebook Crimes:
1. Outing other members blatantly
Please don’t tag me in posts about how great a meeting was or how much you “love your sober life.” Tag me in reference to how awesome your life in general is, by all means, but don’t put my name next to references about recovery.
2. Outing other members cryptically
If you come to me with a question and I suggest a page number in the Big Book to read, don’t post on my page, "Oh my God, page 69!!! You were so right!" It has my non-AA friends scratching their heads (I have close friends who I’ve never told I’m in AA) and some fellow AA members pawing frantically at their Big Books trying to get the inside scoop on what exactly you’re referring to. By the way, referencing page 69 ("we all have sex problems") in public is just as icky as posting that you’re "really enjoying" 50 Shades of Grey. Ew.
Recovery groups should be focused on recovery, not your meltdown of the week.
3. Drama, drama, drama
This tends to be a big problem in "secret" groups that are invitation-only for those in recovery. As in AA, there’s a heady mix of personalities in any online recovery community. Some of us are well, and some of us are, well, not so well. We’re all willing to cut you a little slack when you go on and on at your home group about how a barely disguised "him" (aka another newcomer sitting across the room from you) broke your heart and set your dog on fire, but when you put this info out on Facebook you’re both preserving your drama in binary code forever and issuing a virtual call to arms. In meetings you have the bylaws restricting crosstalk to help save yourself from yourself, hopefully ensuring that nobody exacerbates the drama by responding to what you say. Nor (in a perfect world) will they take your information outside the rooms to anyone but their sponsor. No such practice of "principles over personalities" can be guaranteed online, where I’ve seen members of recovery groups pick sides and greedily ask for more information. Recovery groups should be focused on recovery, not your meltdown of the week. Behavior that might be tolerated in other online groups—such as trolling/whining/shit-stirring—will get you kicked out of these "secret" groups a lot quicker than bad behavior will get you kicked out of a real meeting. Just go to a meeting. Go.
4. More drama
"Fuck all of y’all, I’m out of here!" Believe it or not, we want you to stay. We really do want you to stay in Alcoholics Anonymous, to find a little peace and to get sober. We know it’s not easy. And we know it’s a challenge to break a lot of those old habits, including the habit of flying off the handle and relapsing when you don’t get your way. And we know that anger can kill. When you update your status with something like—"Fuck everyone for siding with my ex! AA is nothing but snitches and bitches!"—we know it’s really tantamount to a suicide threat. And, like responding to a suicide threat, we will all try and convince you to stay. But we shouldn’t be doing that on Facebook. We should be calling you, stopping by your house and trying to take you to a meeting. Twelve-step calls should not be done on social media. That’s just lazy.
"Oh my God, wasn’t ACYPAA amazing? Do you remember the dance contest? How Rick dressed up like Flava Flav except instead of a huge clock around his neck he had a big AA chip? That was hilarious!" Wait, why is that picture on Facebook? Even if it is just in a "secret" group, did you get Rick’s permission to take and post his picture? What about all of the people in the background? I really doubt you asked all 40 people dancing next to Rick whether or not you could take their picture and put it online, blatantly outing them as "young and sober." Some of them might be doctors or lawyers or teachers whose careers could be jeopardized. Also, if one of our members should relapse and then post pictures of themselves with a margarita in hand, don’t embarrass them with alarmed statements about how you hope they’ll come back soon. Either they will or they won’t. Their relapse is none of your business until they call you.
I understand the temptation to weave your life on social media and your life in recovery together. Recovery is amazing. It’s natural to want to share it with everyone, to get involved and to normalize it as much as possible by broadcasting how whoop-ass your fellowship is. But it’s not just your life you’re talking about. AA is a "we" program. Recent GSO guidelines addressing this topic suggest that people do not identify themselves as members of AA on any social networking sites. That’s for everyone’s safety. Just go on and have an awesome life. I and our fellow AA members will keep clicking "like" on your snowboarding pictures or posts about how happy you are, complicit with secret smiles about how that happiness came to fruition.
Oh, and one more thing. Potential 13th-steppers: Stop profile-stalking newcomers. Newcomers, stop accepting friendship requests from sleazy 13th-steppers. Leave that shit for the meeting after the meeting, where I can steer you away from Don Juan and refer you to page 69.
Bobbi Anderson is a pseudonym for a regular contributor to The Fix.