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145: How's Your Social Media Diet?

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145: How's Your Social Media Diet?

Jul 04, 2023

Can mindful scrolling be a good thing for your mental health? From Twitter to TikTok, we're all a bit screen-obsessed. But what's that doing to your headspace? Mitch and Troy welcome back Dr. Scott Langenecker and social media experts Luca and Jhonny as they dive into the mixed bag of social media's impact on our minds and some strategies to create a more mindful, balanced online life.

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Mitch: Social media. The funny thing is that it was meant to bring us together, make the world smaller, and, according to one 1960s futurists, to create a global village. Seems awfully idealistic, doesn't it? But these days, at least on my feeds, it seems like social media is a boxing ring or an emotional minefield. And there are many studies out there that are showing that social media may have a significant impact on a guy's mental health. So today we're going to be talking about social media and the impact on our health.

This is "Who Cares About Men's Health," where we give you some information, inspiration, and a different interpretation of men's health. I'm Producer Mitch, a men's health convert, and filling in today for Scot. Hopefully, Troy and I can make up for the BS.

And always bringing the MD and a bit of validity, Dr. Troy Madsen. Troy, how are you today?

Troy: Hey, Mitch. Good to be here, and I'm excited to talk about social media because I do not like social media, so this is going to be good.

Mitch: You let your wife post the things, right?

Troy: She posts everything. Everything anyone knows about me is something she has posted. That's right.

Mitch: Sure. And to flesh out our discussion and give us their unique perspectives, we have two guests and listeners with us today. We have Jhonny Larrocha. He is a communication specialist with U of U Health where he makes videos for social media. Jhonny, glad to have you, and it says here that you love video editing and bread. Is that . . .

Jhonny: Yeah. So I didn't know what to say about myself. I know a team member here once introduced himself as liking bread and I was like, "You know what? I like bread too. Why not?"

Mitch: Good. All right.

Troy: That's a great way to introduce yourself. I like it.

Mitch: I like bread.

Troy: Yeah, I like bread.

Mitch: Same. Yeah. We're a pro bread podcast. All right. Also joining us is Luca Whittington, a former business owner and social media content creator for the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. Luca's also active in the Salt Lake City queer community, and obsessed with Taylor Swift from day one. Hello, Luca.

Luca: Hi. Yes, I do love Taylor Swift. I did spend my entire life savings on tickets to the Eras tour. No, I am not sorry about it.

Mitch: Wow. Okay.

Troy: Money well spent though.

Luca: It's going to be so worth it.

Mitch: And finally, to help give us a professional perspective on social media and mental health, we are happy to welcome back Dr. Scott Langenecker.

Dr. Langenecker: Hey, how's it going?

Mitch: It's going all right, and you?

Dr. Langenecker: I'm doing okay.

Mitch: Good. Before we start digging into what some of the research shows or some of the potential impacts it might have on our health, I wanted to kind of go around the room and have each of us kind of describe a little bit our relationship with social media. How do we use it? How would you describe your relationship with it? Does it ever impact your mental health or any health aspects?

Let's start with Troy. Troy, what's your situation with social media?

Troy: It's pretty much just a non-existent relationship. Basically, like you said, anything that gets posted about me is stuff my wife posts. So she's active on Facebook and . . . I don't know. What are some of the other social media platforms that she's active on? I don't even know.

Mitch: Oh, you're making the poor social media managers cringe.

Troy: I'm so sorry. I know this makes me sound really old and probably kind of weird, but I'm just not into social media. It's funny, I had a period of about three months where I was on Facebook, and this was about 10 years ago, and it was kind of cool to see what people I'd gone to high school with were up to and to connect and say, "Hey, how are you doing?" and then it just became another email account to check, [inaudible 00:03:39] caught up and see what everyone's up to.

And then there was kind of some weird stuff with work too, where one of my colleagues got a kind of a strange message on Facebook from a patient kind of threatening. And then I had one of a former . . .someone I knew in high school who I'd seen as a patient in the ER who was kind of reaching out to me on Facebook and I was just like, "This is just too weird."

And maybe it's just because of my job that it was like, "This isn't something that . . . it doesn't add a lot to my life," and I just was like, "Okay, that's good. I'm out." And I just haven't done anything with social media since then.

Mitch: Okay. You have a new baby and you have plenty of cute dogs. Are you ever tempted to upload photos, or is that still no interest at all as a new dad?

Troy: Laura takes care of that for me.

Mitch: Okay. All right. You've outsourced that.

Troy: Yeah, I've outsourced it. So yeah, there are lots of cute photos and she's definitely the one sharing those.

Mitch: Sure. Now, before we get to anyone else, my situation is kind of similar. I have essentially abandoned social media. Back in college, my undergraduate degree was actually in social media journalism. It was a brand new thing. It was 2006, 2007. People were like, "Oh, man, Twitter might become a thing." And it's like, "Oh, yeah. Of course. It's going to have major ramifications now." But that's what I actually studied.

And a lot of my early work in broadcasting, in documentary, in all this stuff, the big thing at the time was to build a brand, build a persona. I spent a lot of time crafting pictures, taking photos, uploading the right things, making the right jokes, sharing the right articles, etc. And eventually, as I got a little older and some big things happened in my life, I just was like, "No. Why? Why am I doing this? Why am I turning myself into a brand?" And that was something that was a big shift for me to just stop posting.

Then the second thing is I still watched social media. I still had friends who were on it, but I didn't post anymore. I didn't interact anymore. But then when COVID happened, I don't know, my anxiety was at an 11. Every time I hopped on, there was bad information, good information. There were people fighting. There were news stories that I would . . . I always would keep up on the news, but at that time, I couldn't. I had reached a limit and I really don't do any social media, but watch the occasional TikTok these days. So that's where I'm at.

Troy: It's interesting though, Mitch, because I think that's kind of . . . In the very short time I was really on Facebook, that's kind of the thing I just got really tired of very quickly, was this sense of a lot of people trying to craft an image and feeling kind of obligated to do so as well. I was just like, "This just isn't my thing," and it got old really fast.

So it's interesting to hear that you were all-in on it and you even studied it and majored in it, and being in that, you were just like, "Yeah, I'm kind of tired of it."

Mitch: Yeah. It took me moving to a shack in Ventura County in the boonies where I had no internet and I had to get cut off from it for a couple months. So I was just like, "This is wonderful. I'm never going to do this again."

Troy: You went cold turkey then?

Mitch: Yeah. Not by choice. But it happened, so it's good.

Troy: It happened. Nice.

Mitch: Yeah. How about you, Jhonny? How's your relationship with it?

Jhonny: I'm actually in a similar spot as you. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I think there's a lot of good that can come out of it, but there's also a lot of people that use it for things that are not good, and the way that it affects some people's mental health.

I actually don't update my own personal social media accounts. I stopped doing that a while ago, but I do still use it. I'll watch videos on Instagram, TikTok. I'll look through Reddit. Is YouTube considered social media? Because I'm on there all the time.

So I think there are a lot of good things about it, but I can definitely see where all the dangers and the pitfalls go.

Troy: So it sounds like you're more of an observer on social media, but not really super active in terms of what you're posting and that piece of it.

Jhonny: Yeah. Personal wise, I'm out.

Troy: Interesting.

Mitch: And what caused you to get out?

Jhonny: For me, it was thinking that all these posts that are going up, me updating my life, what was the point? That was really it. I like the idea of sharing things with friends and family, but when strangers start following you . . . Not that I was a celebrity or anything like that at all, but the idea of strangers knowing your personal life, it's not for me.

Mitch: Sure. And how about you, Luca? You are so far probably the most positive. When we've had a little pre-interview, you seemed very excited about social media.

Luca: Yes.

Mitch: How's your relationship with it?

Luca: It's a love-hate relationship too. I do understand the pros and cons. I am of the belief that if you tailor your social media and in moderation and you're safe about it and you're a socially responsible social media user, it can be a really cool, constructive place.

I have learned so many skills. I am the jack-of-all-trades. My friends will say that I can do anything. I learned how to build a lot of stuff off of TikTok. I've also learned how to regulate my emotions and do anger management, and I do daily meditation practices off of TikTok because it's free access to all of these really, really important skills. But that has taken a lot of time of me liking and disliking videos and saying, "I don't want this on my feed."

And so, as a socially responsible user, I think it's a really, really cool thing and it is the way that people are learning. I have taken a few short YouTube classes on social media usage and how to constructively input content and make yourself heard.

So I believe that if you're socially responsible and you take care of your feed and you curate it, I think it can be a wonderful place to be. But there are times and there are feeds that are just really . . . I watch my partner, she has one of the most toxic feeds I've ever seen. Whenever we watch TikTok in bed together, I make it mandatory that we use my phone because hers is all of these beauty standards and health hacks and it's really, really bad.

Mitch: That's interesting to hear because the only social media I really interact with anymore is TikTok. Part of it is because I learn a lot. And especially with my ADHD diagnosis, I have found all of these people sharing what works with them, their experiences, etc., and it has been very meaningful to me to see what's up. I'm an adult who's gotten a diagnosis and trying to figure out their brain. And to find out other people are doing it too, that's been really meaningful.

Luca: Yeah. And also on that personal standpoint, yes, I post my personal life, but I'm also 90% of the time the youngest person in the room. I don't mind sharing my life because I know I have the free will to walk away at any time.

That's also the wonderful part of this, is people sometimes feel trapped by it, but you have to remember that you can walk away at any time. I, as a non-binary person, get hate messages all the time on my personal Instagram, and so I've chosen to turn off my comments on some posts and also limit who can message me. I'm just socially conscious of how I use it because I'm on it so often, because I literally do this 40 hours a week and then I go home and I do it for another 20. So it's a 60-hour-a-week job.

Mitch: Wow.

Troy:But those are some great points you make just in terms of the constructive approach and curating that and being very aware of it and recognizing the positive things. We obviously have to recognize this podcast is a component of social media, and I like to think there's some really good content on here. So, certainly, there's so much great stuff on there, and it sounds like you're taking a constructive approach to that, which is great.

Mitch:So how about you, Dr. Langenecker? You are a mental health professional. You specialize in anxiety-type disorders and all sorts of other mental health things. What's your relationship with social media?

Dr. Langenecker:I have many different relationships with social media. So in the Twitter space, in the website space, it's all professional. I use Facebook to connect with family and friends. I use Instagram to pursue my love of nature and photography. I'm not entirely sure what I use TikTok for. I haven't found a good use for it yet, but I know it's there. It's actually a really fantastic way to transmit a high amount of information very quickly, as you have alluded to. And actually, I've tried to keep those different uses of social media distinct. Some for professional, some for personal.

I was actually pretty strongly social media negative until COVID began, and I was posting hikes that I was going on during COVID, and people . . . not many people, but some people would say, "This is so great to see that you get to be out in nature. I can't be out in nature. I'm on lockdown. Thanks so much for posting these videos." It was only like one or two people, but even in that context as a mental health professional, I felt good about it.

I would also add that I've never felt a need to curate my social media content for others. I have a very selfish use of social media. It's good for me, or I'll walk away from it.

Mitch: That's healthy. So let's shift our conversation a little bit to what some of the research and what are the professionals saying about social media and its impact on health.

Dr. Langenecker, I've seen a whole bunch of studies. I'm the layperson. I'm not 100% sure what they do and don't say. There are some that say that there might be an increase in depression, anxiety, body image issues, poor sleep patterns. There's a whole gamut of things that feel a little clickbait-y when I see the titles, but what is the kind of situation that we're at right now?

Dr. Langenecker: I would say that this is part of the reason why I suggested we maybe have a special discussion about this, which is we are creatures of habit. We are also creatures of consumption. So when we think of consumption, we think of food, and that's why I thought of a diet. But social media is also a diet.

If you think about how most of our social media and news platforms work, they kind of tune in really quickly to the types of emotional and mental food that you're most attracted to, and they keep sending you more and more of that type of information.

And so if you are a passive person in the process of consuming social media and you have a proclivity towards negative emotional states, you will quickly find yourself in a very difficult position with your social media feeding you things that possibly are not very helpful for you.

Now, to answer your question, I would say that all of the studies thus far have been observational, which is observing how people use social media and how social media responds to those individuals' use. There have been no studies to my knowledge where people have actually changed things up and have actually changed the algorithms running in the background to send you things that you don't like or things that are incongruent.

Mitch: What kind of stuff are we talking? What emotions are we clicking on and eating?

Dr. Langenecker: Let me use something that people hopefully can relate to, which is the news. So when we think of the news, we think of going to cable TV or going to "The New York Times" or something, but social media is infused with news, and most people actually get their news through social media now.

And so let's say you're clicking . . . We'll use the disaster that happened with the submersible recently. For those who have a proclivity to threat, links around that were clicked by millions and millions of people.

For me, as a mental healthcare professional who deals with tragedy often, I actually actively avoided anything to do with that because I knew it would just make me feel sad.

Troy: It's interesting, though. I've always assumed the problem with social media is that you see a whole lot of people who seem really happy and have ideal lives, and you recognize that your life isn't ideal, so it makes you feel kind of sad about your own life.

But it sounds like it's much more complex than that in terms of what you're being fed. It just kind of becomes a spiral if you're already consuming negative information. You're just going to get more and more of it, and it sounds like that becomes the larger issue rather than just this idealized worldview of your friends and family where it just seems like their life is so much better than yours.

Dr. Langenecker: If you don't have experience with what Luca was saying before about turning some things off or saying no, it can become a very unwieldy place very quickly.

Luca: Yeah, exactly. With TikTok, there is the option to just scroll past it a few times and it will stop showing you those things with related hashtags. It's a really diverse system and really complex system within TikTok, and Instagram Reels is catching up.

But within the TikTok system, they have done a really, really good job of taking the time to understand if people scroll past the same hashtag four times or only watch it for eight seconds instead of the whole 30, we're not going to show them that content anymore.

There's a TikTok creator currently who does daily news under the table, essentially. They live in D.C. They're a non-binary, they wear a suit, they're very good looking, and I do not watch the news on TikTok because it makes me crazy. And so every time there's a hashtag with news on it, it doesn't come up on my feed because I've curated that.

Mitch: Going back to Troy's point a little bit, sometimes when we think about social media, we just assume comparing ourselves to others, right? But I don't know. The things that enter my feed a lot that were really impacting me were those news stories that were being shared by people because they were making them angry.

And so I'm getting partisan news, I'm getting tragedy strikes whatever, I'm getting news of details of another mass shooting every single day, and then on top of that, I'm getting advertisements for bodybuilding supplements and dudes in their underwear. It's not just the posts. It's kind of everything else and you're just mainlining it, right? It's like a straight fire hose. At least to me it felt that way. I don't know.

Jhonny: Yeah, that's sort of the point or the goal of social media, is just to keep you on their website or on their app. And so that's why the algorithm will just show you things that are related to the video that you watch, and then it'll show you videos that are related to that and that and that, and then you fall into this rabbit hole of content that you may not have at first chosen to watch.

But again, if you don't curate yourself, you're just going to get caught up in this loophole of your rabbit hole, just fall all the way down and you don't even know how you got there. But if you don't stop yourself, you're just going to go all the way down.

Luca: Yeah. Also, on the flip side of this, there is this way where some people don't have time to sit and watch CNN or Fox News or BBC, or listen to NPR. People just don't always have the time to do that, and so on the flip side of this, especially talking about news, if you need to get your daily dose of news in two minutes or less, this is the way to do it to get the top stories. You will have time to watch four 30-second TikTok stories, and it'll just tell you what the news is and you can scroll through the daily feed.

You know how NPR or "New York Times," I forget, condense the daily down into a 5-, 10-minute podcast every day? It's essentially that, but even shorter. And for people of my generation, aka the 24-year-old Gen Zers in the room or who are listening to this, that just seems so much more efficient and doable and digestible.

Troy: I was going to say hearing all this, though, I think the biggest thing is it seems like it requires quite a bit of discipline to really curate this. You're talking about you can't watch it longer than eight seconds or else then that becomes part of your feed or that figures into the algorithm.

I'm curious for Scott, I imagine you meet with people who are having challenges in terms of social media and the way it's affecting their mood or affecting kind of their approach to things. How do you counsel them to curate the things, or do you just tell them just flat out, "Get off social media. This is not healthy for you"?

Dr. Langenecker: It's a great question. I'm going to use an analogy to answer this. So when I first started on Instagram, I started as a father who was monitoring children's activity. And so I was just there to observe. And at that time, I was a 45-year-old, straight man. It wouldn't take you long to figure out that before long, all I would see on my feed are scantily clad females, and that was it.

And so I went to my youngest daughter and I said, "How could you like Instagram, because all it does is give you garbage?" And she said, "You have to curate it." She was 12 at the time and she already knew what that meant.

And so she literally went through, and in 10 minutes, she had fixed my Instagram where I got nature pictures, I got hiking, I got golf, and then there was . . .Oh, right, there was a video game that she and I played together, and that was my entire feed. Ever since then, my feed has been fine.

Troy: So it wasn't scantily clad women in nature or playing golf. It was simply nature and golf.

Dr. Langenecker: Well, no. The algorithm is still smart. It knows my identity, and so, yes, now I see scantily clad women hiking around. And I haven't figured out how to turn that off.

Mitch:Sure. So what are some of the ways that being exposed to or consuming your media diet . . . You're reading the bad news. You are seeing these pictures and stories that are made to give you an emotional response. What are some of the mental health impacts that a constant stream like that can do to a person?

Dr. Langenecker: So this is why we use the word diet. I think diet is absolutely 100% spot on here. So if you go to McDonald's and every time you go to McDonald's you have the supersize French fries and the supersize Coke, over time your body is going to adapt to that, and over time your body is going to put on a lot of extra weight. You'll probably develop diabetes and hypertension. It's the same with the things that we consume into our brain in other ways.

And so if we constantly to use the term . . . thank you for bringing this up, Luca. If your feed is a toxic feed, it will have mental health impacts on you. It's a clear link. There's no way to avoid it.

So the easiest way to think about it is if you're in a loud family, right? Let's just say you're in a loud and emotionally expressive family, and every time you go to dinner, there's an angry discussion about the food and people are complaining about the food and who makes the food and the quality of the food and whatever it might be. Over time, you might come to not like going to dinner, right?

So there's an emotional link, but there's also the content itself. And if the content itself is negative or of distasteful quality and content, it will make you angry. It will make you sad.

I would say that actually cable news figured this out long before we had social media. It's not just social media. I would put to you that if you watch cable news for at least seven minutes, you will become angry or afraid depending upon the type of programming that they have for you. Those are the two outcomes they want, because angry people make political decisions. People who are afraid make political decisions.

And so, in answer to your question, Troy, I absolutely do cover the content of people's daily routine, and social media is a part of their daily routine. What are the sources of spiritual, emotional, and social replenishment that you get that make you feel better about yourself, your community, your social interactions in the world? And that does require curating not just social media interactions, but actually real, in-life-with-other-people interactions as well.

Troy: Well, let me ask you this too. I'm curious as you've counseled people, and I'm sure you're talking to them about managing social media and that sort of thing. So let's say someone like myself came to you and I don't use social media, and I said, "I'm very lonely. I don't have a lot of friends." Would you recommend social media to some people?


Troy:I mean, do you think there's enough value in it that you would actually recommend it to someone, or do you feel like it's just more trying to manage it when people are already on it?

Dr. Langenecker: Yeah. I feel like you laid a trap for me here, Troy.

Troy: I'm just curious. I'm curious if anyone is recommending actually getting on social media.

Dr. Langenecker: So the advice that I would be giving folks is if you are lonely, socially lonely, social media can be a way to augment social activity, but it is not a way to replace social activity.

So we would actually begin with . . . and I've done this with any number of patients. We'd actually begin with activities that you enjoy. So let's say you like gardening or let's say you like biking, and say, "Well, you like biking. You can bike by yourself, or you could bike in a group." So maybe you're going to join a bike group, and that's a way to have a social outlet.

I talk with my patients all the time about low-risk social outlets. And so joining a group, a gardening group, a book-reading group, a biking group, is a way to have social interaction, to feel connected to people, but it's pretty low stakes. It's pretty low risk. And so that's where I would start.

And it may happen if you join the biking group that they have a social media page and you end up connecting with people also on social media and augmenting that connection. But we're designed to be social creatures in real life, in person.

I sort of look at it this way. We have developed in our society, and it actually is an offshoot of American society that we've developed this sort of pull-away from the historical roots that connected us to other people, so we become more secular, less religious. We become more independent, moving away from your parents and your family, more independent focusing more on job than social activities. All of those things pull away from our genetic programming, which is to have a core group of people that we hang with that defend us and we defend them.

Troy: I like what you said, though, about maybe not as a primary tool for that social connection, but something that enhances it. And it seems like there's certainly value in that sense.

I've often wondered if sometimes we look at social media just as a primary tool and as a result of that we often abandon a lot of those more face-to-face interactions with people because we figure, "Hey, I'm on social media. I've got a lot of friends. I'm good."


Troy:Yeah, exactly. But as an enhancement, it seems to make sense.

Jhonny: I use Reddit a lot. A lot of these subs that I go to, it's a lot of people looking for advice. Sometimes you get really good advice and sometimes you get some really out-of-touch advice. And the way that at least Reddit works is that you can up-vote or down-vote a comment, right? And a lot of times it, depending on the sub that you're on, it will be ruled by common sense or by not so much common sense.

And so I think it's important to realize that, yeah, it's great to use these tools for finding answers, for finding ideas, but at the same time, keeping in mind that not everything that you're going to get is great, and not everyone that is replying to you or interacting with you on social media is going to be necessarily in their right mind or a good advice that's going to be healthy for you. So you need to be aware of those things.

Mitch: I'm on a journalism subreddit that is not about news. It's about people who are in news or people who used to be in news. And especially when I was kind of shifting from one career to another, to have a whole room of a thousand former journalists talking about how their careers have changed and how they can still find worthwhile feelings in their work, etc., it was very valuable to me to find out, "Hey, there are other people out there that they're doing the same thing and here's what they've done."

Dr. Langenecker: I think the single most important benefit of social media in mental health, and you hit upon it, is finding information and validation of your own experience.

So a lot of times when we struggle with mental health challenges, we feel alone, we feel unique, and we feel like everything is such a huge struggle just to get from day to day. What I've observed in social media, and I mean this as sincerely as I could say it, is the warmth and the validation and the acceptance that's come through in some of the channels.

The way that people, especially the younger generations, have come to understand and support each other in mental health challenges has just been out outstanding, tremendous, fantastic. I can't say enough about it. It's just been amazing.

Mitch: Yeah, and I think it's fair to kind of bring that up, because on the one hand I jumped off of everything because I'm like, "There are a lot of toxic people here and they're being mean to each other, etc.," but there have been these moments of, like you were saying, very important information and just validation about what I was kind of going through.

Dr. Langenecker: Yeah, and I would say especially for our anxious communities, for our queer communities as teenagers who might be in the closet or thinking, "There's just something terribly wrong with me," to find community in a safe and anonymous way is incredibly helpful.

Mitch: So there are some benefits. There are some really cool benefits, some really powerful benefits. How do we make sure that our diet is healthy, that our social media diet is something that is not a Big Mac over and over again, but actually something that enriches us and makes us better and healthier?

Luca: I think there are tons of ways to do it. It's just kind of about creating self-discipline and having a dialogue with yourself of, "What do I feel comfortable consuming right now? What do I want to see?" And so kind of going through and unfollowing those feeds or those accounts that haven't been serving you in a lot of ways.

I think, also, if you're really interested . . . Let's say you're really interested in knitting or you're really interested in the LGBTQ community. You can search that hashtag and then you'll get an abundance of stuff, and then it'll curate your feed a little bit better. You just have to really be on it.

Social media can be that trap of, "I'm just going to scroll endlessly for six hours at a time," and then lose that and be like, "I don't know what I just consumed." But if you're really disciplined and conscious and kind to yourself and opening up that dialogue, I think that's the way to strategize and make sure your feed is good for you and good for the people around you. What you do consume also affects those around you, as we covered earlier.

Mitch: It's just a personal thing here. Speaking of knitting, I got into crocheting while I was down for a surgery for a couple weeks, and it was probably the first time on social media . . . I've unfollowed bad accounts in the past, but it was the first time that I actively was like, "I'm going to go look at this hashtag. I'm going to go interact with this community a little bit so that I can get more of it."

And I have found this beautiful TikTok of horror fans and crocheters who are talking about the perfect slasher movies to crochet to, and I cannot tell you how moved I am as this former goth kid. Yes, I'm going to crochet some cute little toys for my new niece and watch a slasher movie.

It was really cool, but it was also the first time I had actively engaged with, "I want more of this stuff." And it was really empowering. It was really kind of cool.

Luca: And also to that point, not all platforms, but on certain platforms there's the option to dislike or to say, "I don't really want to see this content." Because we are in the AI generation . . . Mitch and I have gone on many tangents about AI in the past, but we are in the AI generation. It is listening to you. It actively listens and it really takes that constructive feedback.

Whether you're using ChatGPT or you're using TikTok, it will construct something based on your likes and it will listen to you. Sometimes it messes it up. It's a robot, it's not going to be perfect, but it will 100% listen to you, and then output something that might be better suited for you.

Troy: Well, I do like the diet analogy because certainly diet requires discipline. You can't just go to Chuck-A-Rama or whatever your all-you-can-eat buffet of choice may be and just pig out and expect to walk away without any consequences. So it sounds like this has to be, rather than the mindless scrolling, more of a very conscious, very much self-aware approach to social media for it to really be a positive thing rather than detrimental.

Luca: Yeah, but also to that point, sometimes it's okay to just sit and scroll because it happens. Don't get all up in your own grill about spending two hours on a Sunday because you have the time. Don't get upset about it. It's okay to do that. Sometimes you just have to let loose and just watch whatever's in front of you.

Mitch: Is that okay, Scott? Is it okay to spend those hours?

Dr. Langenecker: Yeah. Let me give you an analogy. So my favorite place on this planet . . . I go and I paddleboard. And I might spend two hours, three hours, even 10 hours paddleboarding in this place. My objective is to do nothing other than to be. To be and to exist and to breathe and enjoy the things that I like to enjoy.

And if that's your goal . . . To Lucas's point, if your goal is to say, "Hey, I'm just going to float in the abyss of social media for a bit, and I'm going to enjoy it," and you are enjoying it, then by all means do that. Do that thing. It's totally cool.

To answer your question, there are three things that I kind of want to sum up social media interaction. One is to be active. If you want your life to change, if you want your diet to change, you have to be an active participant in that process.

Like Luca was saying, you have to curate it. Like Jhonny was saying, you have to know what to ignore and what not to ignore, and to be intentionally kind. I've actually replaced the word kind in my lexicon, because I think kind is kind of overused. But I like to use the word be gentle. I find that if I focus on being gentle with others, I'm always going to be kind. Sometimes when I think I'm being kind, I'm not being gentle and I'm actually being mean.

And then, of course, the other thing I alluded to before is to be okay with being wrong and to apologize. It's not a big deal. You could write something that might be hurtful. Just apologize and move on.

Troy: I like that. I think it's an important skill to learn and social media seems like a great place to learn it. There's so much value in learning to apologize. As a physician, it's been something I've really tried to work on, apologizing if I make a mistake or if I . . . But just in my personal life as well. So I like that you're really emphasizing that.

Quite honestly, I've never really heard that discussed before in the context of social media. It seems like a great place to recognize that, yeah, we're going to say stupid things and things we really didn't mean to say and things that were said with a lot of emotion, but we can always just apologize and say, "Hey, sorry I said that. I shouldn't have done that."

Dr. Langenecker: Even we could mean them, and social media is the avenue by which we learned that the things that we meant are actually hurtful, and maybe we need to think of a different way of thinking.

Troy: That's a good point. Yeah.

Dr. Langenecker: I mean, in the last three years for sure, there have been things that I've learned on social media that undo some of the . . . I'm going to use the word programming . . . that I had as a child. I've learned that I can be wrong a lot more often than I thought I could be wrong before, and that being humble and gentle is a good start.

Mitch: So I think I've learned a lot. We like to do takeaways here. For me, one of the big things is being active, being a part of it. Social media isn't there just to zone out, which I think a lot of us can use that for, but to be interested in, "What am I consuming and how am I interacting with it? Am I being present? Am I being a part of it, or am I just mindlessly scrolling on whatever the algorithm chooses to give me and it's going to make me grumpy?"

So that's me. How about you, Troy?

Troy: I'm not quite ready to reactivate my Facebook profile and reactivate those pictures of me from 10 years ago on there, but I am more open to the idea of engaging with social media where I would say prior to this, I just saw it as something where there wasn't a lot of value and it led people to be depressed and unhappy. But I think you've all had some really great thoughts about how to make it a positive thing, so I appreciate that.

Mitch: How about you, Jhonny?

Jhonny: I think that if you find like-minded people, it's great. If you find tutorials that help you know how to do things like work on my car or installing different things around the house, those how-to videos. But ultimately, for me, it's "Is it adding to your life or is it taking away from your life?" And if it's taking away from your life, then get rid of it.

Mitch: I like that. Luca?

Luca: A big thing just in the conversations that we've had is it's okay to take breaks. I sometimes forget that, because 40 hours a week I sit on a phone and I create little TikTok videos and scroll through Instagram and Facebook and all of the avenues. But it's also okay to unplug, I think, sometimes. Even though I am pro social media, I'm also pro taking a break, and I sometimes forget that that's okay. So I think that's my takeaway.

Mitch: Sure. And how about you, Scott? A lot of very different opinions and experiences here. A bunch of generations representative. What are you feeling?

Dr. Langenecker: Yeah. I love the word that Luca used before, which is curating, actively curating the content. And I'd like people to think about staying local. What do I mean by local? Local is things that mean something to you, things that have a purpose for you, and things that you might actually have an impact upon.

This is a little bit soapbox-y, but I think part of the struggle that we're having now is that we're finding access to all sorts of terrible things that are going on in the world, and it's really easy to become overwhelmed by it and to blame social media. But social media is an avenue for that information to come to us. We can still turn it off.

We can still curate what comes to us, and we can curate pretty funny cat videos to come to us and instead of toxic oil spills. It doesn't mean we don't care. It means that we're taking care of ourselves so that we can actually be a positive actor in the world.

Mitch: So what about you, the listener who is listening right now? One of the challenges I have to you is to take stock in your social media habits and your media diet. Take a hard look at it, and what is bringing you joy? For me, it is pitbulls and pajamas. I think that's a great thing, pairs really well with my murder crochet. Love that. Or is it taking away from you? Are there things that you are looking at, consuming, reading that just are not giving you anything in your life?

Let us know your thoughts. Maybe try a break. Let us know how it goes afterwards and maybe we'll do a future episode about taking a break and seeing how people feel after.

But you can always send your thoughts or any other health questions you may have to our email, That's

Thanks for listening, and Jhonny, Luca, Scott, thank you so much for joining and sharing today. I really appreciate it.

Troy: Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Jhonny:Thank you for having me.

Luca:Thank you.

Troy:It was great.

Dr. Langenecker: Thank you all. It was nice to learn from you all.

Mitch: And thank you for caring about men's health.


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