The internet has impacted almost every aspect of human life. In particular it has revolutionized the way that people communicate with one another. It has become commonplace to make friends with people without ever meeting them face to face. It has also meant that distance is no barrier to friendship and companionship. So long as people have an internet connection they will be able to participate in an online community. The addiction recovery community is one group that has managed to put this technology to good use. Although there are some concerns that people might use the online world as a means to escape reality.
There are three many types of online support group:
* Discussion forums. This is where people post a message and wait for other people to respond. The most usual way to do this is to start a thread on a given subject or question. Other members will then add their views on this topic. People will use these forums at different times of the day so there can be long gaps between responses.
* Live chat groups is a type of online communication that allows for instantaneous transmission of text messages. The benefit of this is that there is no need to wait long for a reply. The downside with live online chat is that it can become confusing if everyone is texting at once. Some groups will hold virtual meetings using this technology.
* Email Support groups. Here people will join an email list where they will read and add contributions. This can work in a similar way to discussion forums. In fact it is usually possible to use email updates to stay connected with a discussion group.
* Second Life Support Groups occur in a virtual world. There are moving avatars to represent the different members, and it is usually a similar format to live chat.
* Audio or video chat groups. This is a type of live chat where people can actually see and hear each other. This type of online group is becoming more common as the technology improves.
There are a number of advantages to addiction communities on the web including:
* Some people live in remote locations and this makes it difficult for them to go to face to face recovery meetings. The internet makes it possible for people to find support no matter where they happen to be.
* There are individuals who have physical mobility problems that make it difficult for them to travel. Online support groups offer them a good alternative.
* Even those people who go to regular meetings in the real world enjoy the additional support they can find online. Getting involved with the web community further strengthens their recovery.
* It is possible to go online at any time of the day or night. This means that support is only ever a few clicks away.
* There are some people who just do not feel comfortable in face to face meetings. By choosing to go online they can get help from the recovery community that would otherwise not be available to them.
* It is possible to provide real help to other people in the online community. This type of service in recovery can benefit both parties.
* These meetings are useful for people who are not yet fully ready to commit to sobriety. By visiting they can become inspired and motivated enough to eventually quit their addiction.
* These communities are an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about addiction and recovery.
There are disadvantages to online support groups including:
* Meeting people online is a lower level of interaction than meeting them in reality. This means that such contact is unlikely to be as beneficial as live contact.
* Members off AA, and other support groups, claim that it is the atmosphere in the live meetings that give them strength. This atmosphere is missing in online groups.
* People tend to be a lot less reserved online than they will be in real life, and this can lead to problems. It may mean flame wars and insulting comments. The problem with text based forums in particular is that people forget that they are dealing with other real people. It is much easier to be offensive without any real fear of consequences. People do become upset by things that are said online, and it could be an excuse they use to relapse.
* It is very easy to abuse anonymity online. There can be individuals who stalk online recovery groups for fun and not because they have addiction problems.
* If people are struggling in recovery this will usually be picked up by others who see them in real life. There will be lots of clues in the way the person looks, talks, and acts. Such clues are missing in online communications so those who are struggling will often be missed unless they ask for help.
* It is a lot easier to cause offence accidently when using text as a form of communication. One person may write something intending to be funny, but it can be taken by others the wrong way. If people are not clear in their posts it can lead to unpleasant misunderstandings.
* Some online communities are not there to benefit members. The real aim is to promote products or to otherwise take advantage of visitors. Anyone can start up an online recovery group and their motives will not always be noble.
* People can become addicted to online communities. They may spend all their time online as a way to avoid dealing with reality.