Social Media and Paid Ads
Board-Approved Statement on Social Media
The web could be the way a viewer looks at FA for the first time. Therefore, in an effort to provide guidance via the October 2011 World Service Board Quarterly Report, the PI Committee has appealed to the FA fellowship to refrain from posting anything about FA to their social media profiles, content feeds or blogs. Anyone who has FA references in their profiles or blogs is asked to take them down. As an alternative, in an effort to respond to relevant posts, a mechanism similar to MediaWatch was established called Blogwatch@foodaddicts.org. Now FA members who see social media or comments sections on websites where they want FA to be included can send an email to BlogWatch, and the BlogWatch team will add an informational comment to that social media site or website comments section.
The internet is a powerful mechanism for reaching newcomers, carrying the message, and providing information internally and externally. It is the WSI PI Committee’s opinion that the FA website appropriately accomplishes this, together with the MediaWatch, BlogWatch, HealthcareWatch, and the WebLinks programs organized by the PI Committee.
For the following reasons, FA does not support using social media as a mechanism for FA communication.
1. Risk of Replacing Meetings and Phone Calls
Phone calls are a vital tool in our program. Going to FA meetings (or AA meetings in remote areas) is an important part of breaking the isolation of our disease and of keeping us (including sponsors) honest about our body size. Let us remember that there is a real potential that newcomers and existing members could become isolated by choosing to connect via social media rather than by phone or face-to-face contact. If social media were an option, some people would treat it as a meeting. This misrepresents FA and is potentially dangerous to that person’s recovery and those who would be connected to them online.
2. Potential for FA to be Viewed by Newcomers as a Social Club
It is hard enough for newcomers to learn to feel a part of a group. Supporting the establishment of social media groups could set a negative precedent for both newcomers and existing members to feel excluded. Such groups could intimidate or alienate members or give the appearance that FA is a social club. The tone of an FA meeting is serious because FA members take their recovery and the disease of food addiction seriously. As stated in Tradition One, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on FA unity.”
3. Potential for Breaking Personal Anonymity and That of Others
When “Likes” are posted, when people are followed on a live feed, when members join groups, accept invitations or post a comment, etc., it diminishes the integrity FA has established at the meeting level. Profiles on social media sites often display which pages people “Like” and which groups they’ve joined. Photos posted from FA events can also mistakenly show a nametag or comment breaking that person’s anonymity. Comments can be copied and pasted and could potentially be online permanently, even if someone’s sentiment were to change over time. This could be particularly confusing for members without an understanding of the ever-changing privacy settings or who don’t have knowledge of those sites’ policies.
4. Limited Control Over What Is Said
Sharing on sites could include language, sentiments and content that is not representative of the FA program. When members post comments or items on recovery sites, blogs and social media, they may inadvertently be viewed as representing FA. Additionally, once the content is posted, there is no way for the content, which could be inappropriate or offensive, to be moderated.
As stated in the 2010 AA International Convention address on social media, when a member chooses to identify him- or herself with a 12-step program online, that person is giving the appearance of endorsement or affiliation with the site where they are submitting comments, posts, or a profile. Even though that member may not care what viewers read about them, the general fellowship may not agree with the comment, may not want to endorse that site or affiliation, and it doesn’t give that person the right to break another’s anonymity. “While society and technology have changed, the original principles are still applicable and valuable.”
In the March 1946 Grapevine, Bill W. wrote:
“Great modesty and humility are needed for every AA for his own permanent recovery. If these virtues are such vital needs to the individual, so must they be to AA as a whole. This principle of anonymity before the general public can, if we take it seriously enough, guarantee the Alcoholics Anonymous movement these sterling attributes forever. Our public relations policy should mainly rest upon the principle of attraction and seldom, if ever, upon promotion.”
The web is a public forum. It is our responsibility to continue FA’s work in accordance with the principle of anonymity and in accordance with the Traditions.
Board-Approved Public Information Committee Statement on Paid Advertising
The Public Information Committee came to this statement based on communication with the AA General Service Public Information Committee, which provided documents (i.e., excerpts from the AA Public Information Workbook and from the Grapevine) stating Bill W's perspective on getting the word out about AA. Bill W's words included, "Public information takes many forms - the simple sign outside a meeting place that says 'AA Meeting Tonight'; listings in local phone directories; distribution of AA literature; and radio and TV shows using sophisticated media techniques. Whatever the form, it comes down to 'one drunk carrying the message to another drunk,' whether through personal contact or through the use of third parties and the media." Also, in the task list of Suggested PI Goals in AA's PI Workbook, an item states: "Place a small (paid, if necessary) announcement in every district newspaper around the holidays."
In 1965 the Public Information Committee of the AA General Service was formed, and the conference established a clear over-all policy: "AA's sole objective is to help the still-suffering alcoholic. Always mindful of the importance of personal anonymity, we believe this can be done by making (our experience) known to alcoholics and to those who may be interested in the problem."
Also, in an October 1957 essay in the Grapevine, Bill W. wrote, "While word of mouth and personal contact have brought in many a newcomer, we can never forget that most of us are able to trace our chance for recovery back to our friends in communications - we read, or maybe we heard, or maybe we saw."
The Public Information Committee's proposed statement is as follows:
The FA World Service Public Information Committee makes the following statement regarding paid and unpaid advertising. We recommend allowing each individual group and Intergroup to make their own decisions about paying for advertising. However, the first effort should be made to secure unpaid advertising. Many TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, websites and outdoor advertising companies allot a certain amount of public service space to tax-exempt organizations such as Twelve Step programs. Wherever possible, seek free advertising or reduced-rate advertising at a non-profit (also known as 501(c)3) rate. Paid advertising should be in the form of a simple, informational and educational listing only in the format below:
Are You Having Trouble Controlling the Way You Eat?
call for Help or visit
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
If Eating Has Become a Problem
call for Help or visit
Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
There is a section for the PI Committee Liaison in the AA pamphlet "The AA Group" that says: “Most groups realize that alcoholics can’t come to A.A. for help unless they know where we are. Using many suggested methods ranging from personal contact to public service announcements on radio and TV, groups and their members reach out, working within the framework of Tradition eleven. Sometimes a small sign saying “A.A. meeting tonight” outside the meeting – place door points the way. And from A.A.’s earliest days, radio announcements and small newspaper announcements of A.A. meetings have been used to attract alcoholics in need of help.”
Decisions whether or not to use funds for public service advertising should depend on whether a local group or Intergroup has excess funds to spend on it. A group that cannot support itself financially or meet its donation commitments to its corresponding intergroups and chapters and to World Service should refrain from paying for advertising and instead contact the World Service PI Committee for assistance.