Rae Dylan has worked in the recovery field for 15 years as a “sober coach,” helping addicts of every stripe regain control of their lives, including those battling the latest affliction–social media addiction.
Although academic research is scarce, social media addiction has started to gain recognition among psychologists.
Two ground-breaking studies overseas discovered individuals who compulsively checked and updated their social media accounts to the point of disrupting their lives and ability to hold a job.
“In the last two years, with Instagram and other social media, it’s become almost a pastime of a lot of people, across the board,” says Dylan, who works with the entertainment industry, business professionals and young adults.
Among some of the subtle signs, especially among children and young adults, are an inability to be social and an unwillingness to integrate with the same sex or opposite sex because they are so attuned to their cell phones.
“It’s continuing to get worse and worse,” she says.
“People who can’t get outside themselves,” are particularly vulnerable. “Especially in Hollywood, where you’re never young enough or old enough,” she says.
“You can never have enough,” she continues. “A lot of clients who’ve peaked in Hollywood feel insecure, and envy plays a role.
“We’re looking at what other people are doing–a family that looks like this, a vacation house that looks like this, make up to clothing to food; we have it all over.”
A social media addiction “can be anything that can taken your emotions in a total left to right 180 swings and affects what you’re doing,” she says.
“It means that you’re able to have a digital platform dictate you feelings and emotions. Having something that is not tangible give you that kind of mood swing is kind of crazy.
“More than ever, people really want to connect with other people and have a lot of insecurities. There’s a lot more pressure to succeed, to be seen, to look the part, and it really is disheartening to a lot of people who might not be able to achieve on that level.
“What we’re trying to pursue is lost in the translation. There is no uniqueness anymore; it’s harder to find now,” she says.
Mental health experts and other commentators have criticized social media “influencers” and reality television personalities like Kim Kardashian for setting unrealistic expectations about body image and self-worth, often leading to eating disorders and even excessive plastic surgery.
“With regard to the Kardashians, I would say it’s just another way people are trying to emulate the way they should be and losing who we are,” Dylan says.
“I don’t think it has to do specifically with what Kim Kardashian is trying to do. But I think little girls think if I look this way, I can get the attention she gets.”
Whether it’s an addiction to drugs, alcohol or social media, Dylan sees common issues among the clients she helps.
People are looking for a purpose in life, and what we see on TV tells us we’re not a certain way. That leads to social anxiety, not being able to present and simply fear.
“Fear overtakes a lot of people; fear of losing what you have, or not being able to achieve what you dream about,” she says.
“Aging is a big fear especially when you’re in the public eye. You’re obsessed with the way things look. Plastic surgery is definitely mainly women who are worried.”
Alcohol addiction has been around forever, and a lot of science has linked it to certain brain chemistry.
But Dylan says people are often traumatized in some way, develop social anxiety and self-medicate.
Rae Dylan speaks from experience. She struggled with her own addiction to drugs and alcohol early in life and has been in long-term recovery.
She studied communication and psychology at the University of Colorado and began her career as a New York City-based, international flight attendant.
She also tried her hand at acting and modeling, before choosing her ultimate career path helping people struggling with addiction, dependency and self-destructive behavior.
She began working with underprivileged children to divert them from boredom and drug addiction, find role models they admired and to find a more fulfilling life.
She founded her own company, R Dylan LLC in 2010, and created DTOX two years later. It’s a recovery app for addicts who couldn’t afford outside help, including support from their local communities, AA and the resources to deal with isolation, depression and loneliness.
She works with doctors, psychiatrists and treatment centers, and focuses her treatment on “inspiring positive change and maintaining healthy relationships through stable lifestyle choices. Building self-esteem, purpose and life.”
She often performs interventions, can be a “sober companion” for up to two years and performs intensive sober coaching that can last up to six months.
“I think a lot of it has to do with giving some younger people, or even older people, someone to mentor them, discussing with them what they’re insecure about. Not all of us can get attention. What happens to the people who don’t? They feel worthless.”
One thing is certain, addiction cuts across all ages and social groups, and carries a high cost to society.
Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse costs more than $740 billion annually due to crime, lost work productivity and health care, according to Drugabuse.gov, a site run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The American Addiction Centers estimates that 14.8 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds battled a substance use disorder in 2017, while one million Americans 65-years-and-older suffered from substance abuse.
There’s no one way to solve the huge, massive problem, but emotional support is key to an effective recovery strategy.
“When I was younger I felt the same way; I needed some kind of direction, or mentorship. If I had that in my own life, it would have made a difference.
people are craving guidance.. once someone helps you, your more apt to help someone else.
“In recovery myself, I needed direction and experiences to learn how to navigate through different things in life. It’s so much easier to go through it, when you have assistance and help.”