“The Man on the Web”

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Online Intergroup of A.A. Nears 20-Year Anniversary

“Today’s counterpart to the ‘man on the bed’ is the trembling, sick alcoholic in cyberspace,” writes Dennis M. of the Bronx, N.Y. in a Grapevine article titled AA in Cyberspace. “And we see a good number of them looking for help for the first time. We see them coming back from slips; we see them finding A.A. at a time and a place where we can feel their desperation and share our hope, just as we do in f2f (face-to-face) meetings.”

Excited about today’s expanding ability to reach out to suffering alcoholics, A.A. members around the world continue finding new ways to carry A.A.’s message of hope.

One helpful development in this effort has been the growth of the Online Intergroup of A.A. (O.I.A.A.), an organization nearing its 20th anniversary. First formed to help unify the growing number of online meetings that began to mushroom in the late 1980s, many starting as bulletin board meetings and email groups, the O.I.A.A. was legally incorporated in 1996, giving online groups a forum for exchanging information and ideas and for helping one another carry the message of A.A. online.

Online meetings come in a variety of formats: real-time chat, email meetings, telephone chats, audio-visual meetings using video streaming applications, message boards/forums, and discussion board meetings. Some are targeted toward specific groups: women, military, deaf/hard-of-hearing, and there are meetings available in a number of languages. Many have regular schedules, and some are “catch-as-catch-can,” with members posting when there is time and a burning desire.

Many A.A. members use the online medium to supplement their f2f meetings or vice-versa, depending on each member’s own situation, and most online groups encourage attendance at f2f meetings. There are many A.A.s, however, who cannot attend f2f meetings (geographically-isolated members, members with physical disabilities, members living in a foreign country, members in the military or at sea, older A.A.s, shift workers, parents with young children) and online A.A. may be the best or only resource available to allow these members to participate fully in the A.A. Fellowship.

One of O.I.A.A.’s chief services is an online meeting directory posting an up-to-date list of online A.A. groups on its website (www.aa-intergroup.org). On average, the directory lists about 170 groups. It also directs an estimated 22,600 online visitors a month from more than 100 countries to meetings held in 14 languages and to meetings with formats that make A.A. accessible to people with vision, speech, or hearing problems. A little more than half of O.I.A.A.’s visitors access their information on mobile devices (phones or tablets), with others using desktop computers. O.I.A.A.’s directory does not include every A.A. group in cyberspace, however — only those that choose to be listed and subscribe to the Twelve Traditions of A.A.

Keenly aware that “personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity,” as the First Tradition says, O.I.A.A. also encourages communication among online groups as well as with local intergroups, areas, G.S.O., and other A.A. service bodies. This is done chiefly through the work of its committees. In addition to a Twelfth Step Committee, which is comprised of approximately 40 members worldwide, speaking multiple languages and fielding between 350-400 requests for help per month, O.I.A.A. has formed committees for: Public Information, Cooperation With the Professional Community, Unity and G.S.O. liaison, Conventions, Finance, Policy and Admissions, and World Wide Web — all of which are described on O.I.A.A.’s website.

O.I.A.A.’s governing body, the Intergroup Assembly, is made up of an Intergroup Representative and alternate from each registered group, plus its committee chairs, their alternates, and five officers: a chair and co-chair, treasurer, historian, and secretary. With the lessons learned over nearly 20 years working together, they strive to practice the principles of A.A. in all web affairs, so that the hand of A.A. will always be there in cyberspace as well.

From the Holiday issue of  Box 459, the quarterly “News and Notes from the General Service Office of A.A.®”
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