Social Networking is a great way to connect with so many individuals! It connects you with your family, friends from the past, current friends, and even allows you to make new friends. With so many benefits, are there any potential dangers with social networking? Well, not if you are someone who has strong boundaries, is careful in what you share with others, and gets your emotional needs met in a healthy way. However, if you are someone who has struggled with being inappropriate on the Internet or in relationships, has received false intimacy in unhealthy places, or taken advantage of relationships for your own benefit, then social networking will most likely present some challenges. If there is not a specific focus and set of boundaries on how these challenges and concerns can impact someone struggling with sexual addiction, it can open the door for a brand new set of issues.
So what are some of those challenges that someone struggling with sexual addiction will face in dealing with social networks?
• In the past, there were more limitations to what a sex addict struggled with on the Internet. They mainly had to deal with pornography and chat rooms. Yes, these were very addictive, harmful, and destructive, but with the development of social networking, there are many more opportunities for the sex addict to find a connection and to face temptation that is seen as more socially acceptable.
• Facebook, Myspace, and many other social networking sites can start out seemingly harmless, but when there is a neediness that arises for the sex addict, it opens the door to make familiar connections with those from their past.
• These connections are easier to hide because they don’t appear harmful but can lead a recovering sex addict down a very slippery slope because they will rationalize that it is not pornography or a chat room. But the more they connect, especially if they are having challenging times in their life emotionally, the easier it is to go back to old behaviors of hiding, deception, and getting their needs met inappropriately.
Does this mean that social networking is completely wrong for the sex addict? Not necessarily, but there needs to be some strong boundaries put in place.
Here are a few that have proven to be helpful:
• If the person struggling with sexual addiction and his or her spouse feels comfortable being part of some of the social networks, it would be strongly recommended that the person share all passwords with his or her spouse and accountability partner. This keeps things very open and transparent!
• Have regular check-in times with spouse and accountability partner to see if too much time is being spent on these sites and if the sex addict is getting any “hits” emotionally or physically from any relational connections.
• Make sure the sex addict is very open about all friend requests and does not allow any past relationship partners or “hook ups” to be part of his or her network.
• Be willing to shut down these sites through a filter or by blocking them before they can become an issue or if challenges arise from using them.
The strongest and safest course of action is to avoid these sites to keep any problems, temptations, or challenges off the table. Why open a door that can lead to more hurt and pain after all the sex addict and spouse have been through? If you do feel you can safely manage these sites, be careful to have very strong boundaries in place to keep you safe and for your spouse and family to feel safe as well. Social networks can be fun and a very positive connection for many individuals. Just like a lot of other things, when it is abused it can cause more emotional pain and betrayal for those close to the sex addict. For the person who has faced and is dealing with the area of sexual addiction, social networking brings another tempting avenue into play that, if not handled directly, can lead to a whole new set of issues and pain.
© Copyright 2010 by Janie Lacy, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, NCC, CSAT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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