From an organizational standpoint, Alcoholics Anonymous has many admirable qualities. First, it doesn’t accept money from anyone but members of AA. Second it has a long and cherished tradition of anonymity.
The principle of anonymity is a basic tenet of our fellowship. Those who are reluctant to seek our help may overcome their fear if they are confident that their anonymity will be respected. In addition, and perhaps less understood, our tradition of anonymity acts as a restraint on our members, reminding us that we are a program of principles, not personalities, and that no individual A.A. member may presume to act as a spokesman or leader of our fellowship. If an A.A member is identified in the media, we ask that you please use first names only (e.g. Bob S. or Alice F.) and that you not use photographs or electronic images in which member’s faces may be recognized.
These two policies may have something to do with the fact that AA has survived so much longer than other groups which have tried to help alcoholics.
Sadly neither policy is in evidence at the Recovery Media Network’s new social networking site, 12StepSpace.com. There you are free to post a picture & profile of yourself and tell the world of your struggle to recover from alcoholism/gambling/overwork/internet addiction/stuffed animals/men& women who love too much, et al. Once you have added your profile sleep soundly in the knowledge that your effort is putting money in the pockets of the site’s owners & sponsors. The featured sponsor? A drug company hawking its drugs to help you overcome your dependence on drugs. That’s some catch that Catch-22. While it is disgusting, it isn’t novel: Another drug company already started a MySpace page under the guise of helping others.
Mashable pretty much nails everything that’s wrong with this attempt.
While 12stepSpace celebrates things like a user’s Recovery Birthday, and offers a buddy to chat with if you need someone to talk to on an immediate basis, there’s no distinct emphasis on recovery or the 12 step process. Having a dedicated section for online and offline resources, as well as inspirational stories or a physician or clinic finder (that’s not an advertiser) would make the community feel more like a place for sharing stories and finding help, and less like a MySpace clone.
Yeah, but that suggests there’s anything besides cynicism at work here.
(UPDATE: My apologies for attributing cynical motives to the organizers of 12StepSpace. It’s the drug company that’s cynical. Judging by their complaints I’d say the site’s organizers are just amazingly naive.)