Social media sites have become a huge part of our lives, enabling us to easily stay in touch with countless friends and family members all over the world. But there’s a dark side to social media, as it also enables negative things like bullying to proliferate. Many people have found that social media creates a huge amount of anxiety in their lives, but don’t feel they can live without it. In this episode, learn some ways to reduce the anxieties associated with social media.
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About Our Guest
Dr. John Huber is the Chairman for Mainstream Mental Health, a non-profit organization that brings lasting and positive change to the lives of individuals that suffer from mental health issues. A mental health professional for over twenty years, Dr. Huber is a Clinical Forensic Psychologist, and he is a practitioner with privileges at two long term acute care hospitals. Dr. Huber has appeared on over three hundred top tier radio shows (NBC Radio, CBS, Fox News Radio) and thirty national television programs (ABC, NBC, Spectrum News). Dr. Huber is Law Newz’s go-to Clinical psychologist and appears regularly on America Trends National Television show. In addition, Dr. Huber is the host of “Mainstream Mental Health Radio,” which is heard nationwide and features interviews with today’s top mental health professionals.
SOCIAL MEDIA STRESS SHOW TRANSCRIPT
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Narrator 1: Welcome to the Psych Central show, where each episode presents an in-depth look at issues from the field of psychology and mental health – with host Gabe Howard and co-host Vincent M. Wales.
Gabe: Welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show. My name is Gabe Howard, and I’m here with my fellow host Vincent M. Wales. And today Vince and I will be talking to Dr. John Huber, who is the chairman for Mainstream Mental Health, which is a nonprofit organization that brings lasting and positive change to the lives of individuals who suffer from mental health issues. Dr. Huber, welcome to the show.
Dr. Huber: Thank you for having me on the show, Gabe. I appreciate it.
Gabe: Well, we appreciate having you.
Dr. Huber: Vin, good to meet you today.
Vincent: Yeah, you too. So what exactly would you like to talk about today? We discussed this earlier and there was a lot of political stuff in our conversation. So what do you want to attack?
Dr. Huber: As a nonprofit, I don’t talk any particular side of politics. But one of the things that has struck us, is the anger that American now has towards somebody who does not think like I think.
Dr. Huber: Whether you’re left wing, right wing, you know, anti-establishment, whatever, Green Party, if you don’t think like I do there’s just anger and vitriol.
Gabe: It’s actually a little worse than that. Because two people can think exactly the same way, but if they arrive at that thinking for different reasons. Like for example, a Democrat could own a business and believe in making profits. A Republican can own a business and believe in making profit. But those two, even though they’re both running businesses, and believe in making profit, will find a reason to argue.
Dr. Huber: Yes, yes.
Gabe: Even though they’re sharing the same goal.
Dr. Huber: Absolutely, absolutely.
Gabe: Yeah. Yeah. You making money is bad. My making money is pure. It’s, I could use that example, because, hey, we’re just going politics and money. Please nobody bring up religion. But you’re right, there’s a lot of this. What do you think is going on?
Dr. Huber: Well, I think one of the things is if you go back to early understanding of psychology and as you just said that you can talk to one person and a second person individually, and everything is fine. They’re making money, and we know that individuals tend to make very rational, logically based decisions. But when you start putting a group of people together, you start getting into group think, and you start making really dumb mistakes as a group. Whereas any individual in that group, alone by themselves, would have never done that. But when they start getting together, there’s something that happens that just turns that brain off or partially off, and they start feeding off each other emotionally, and not thinking rationally. And it doesn’t matter what party you’re on or what group you belong to. Groups do this. Groups of people do this. You know, they talked about, you know, I remember growing up they would say, “Oh, a duck bill platypus was an animal that a committee up in Heaven made. It wasn’t God, you know?
Gabe: Yes, yes.
Dr. Huber: Like, oh my goodness! And that’s what we see now. Think of that and how easily we are wound up and fed off that emotional energy right there in the middle of that group. Now, let’s go back and be an individual again. Only this time, I read about this new thing called Facebook, and this other great thing called Snapchat, and another thing called Instagram. I mean, there’s literally thousands of different social apps, communication apps, hookup sites, all those guys are all socially engineered, and you can be part of it. One of the beautiful things about all of that is you also have control of it. So you tend to start finding people who are like minded, and you let them post all that they want on your site. And you listen to all the stuff they have, but people disagree with you and you either block them, you unfriend them, give them a vacation where you don’t see their post but if you want to talk to them you go on and direct message. And you can message them any time, and they never know you’re not watching them. And so now you’ve created a virtual group think pattern.
Gabe: You’ve created an echo chamber. It’s just a bunch of people who think like you.
Dr. Huber: Exactly. But that’s group think. And now somebody comes out there, and there’s something that you find appalling. You’ve got to be the leader of that group, because you want to establish your hierarchy in that group. So you go out there and say, “Oh, that’s evil.” The person who said that, the misogynist or racist or whatever if you want to give them. And what happens is other people in your group want to do the same thing. So they take the next degree further, the next degree farther, and all they’ve really done though is read the headline. They didn’t actually go look at the meat of the story, which may not have even supported the headline at all. And it becomes this vicious cycle that feeds off each other.
Gabe: You know, it’s fascinating that you bring that up. You know, obviously, this is The Psych Central Show. It’s a podcast. And to be a podcast, it needs to have titles. We title all of our episodes.
Dr. Huber: Yes.
Gabe: And we promote heavily on social media, as does everybody. And we are shocked at the number of people who get angry at the show because of the headline, over a point that we made on the show! So, like, “I can’t believe that Gabe thinks this! Why would Gabe think this?” And in the show I said I don’t think this. They’ve just grabbed seven key words. And, c’mon people, it’s a 25 minute show! The interesting thing about what you said is when you said that we do this on social media, I thought no we don’t. We do this with our news as well. If you’re a conservative you watch Fox News.
Dr. Huber: Absolutely.
Gabe: If you’re a liberal you watch MSNBC. And then if you’re an extreme conservative you go one way and just on and on and on. We only want to see what we already believe.
Dr. Huber: Absolutely. That is the social media. The news has already been there. I mean, think back to the 90s. We were already doing that. But 2007 is when smartphones got released to the public. And we’ve only had those for 12 years, and that’s when all this violence and anger and immediate rage is kicked in. You know, another physiological thing that happens during that rage, is the fight or flight mechanism. You know, if you’re walking in the forest and you see the bear cub walk in front of you on your trail, and you look to your right and there’s momma bear, fight or flight kicks in. Blood goes to the extremities. Your respiratory goes up. All these things will help you either run or to fight your attacker. Well, one other thing that in the last three or four years we’ve actually been able to find out, is when that happens, your brain starts redirecting blood flow from your higher functioning areas like your frontal lobe, where you make all your rational decisions. And they close that area off and send that blood flow to the old part of your brain. In fact, it’s called the limbic system, and that’s where all your emotions are. So, all of sudden now, your emotions are being fed, and there’s nothing holding you back. No restraints, because the rational part of you is not working right now. So now, if you’re fighting, and you’re fighting for your life, and there’s no thought about consequences, because you’re just trying to get out of that situation. That’s a benefit for survival. But when you’re not really facing that bear, or that opponent on a battlefield, you’re facing your screen and somebody says something you don’t want, that exact same process happened. And now you’re not thinking very smart at all. You’re purely emotional, and you get yourself into trouble in those situations. And then we go back to the media. The news media that has figured out that we’ve divided everybody up. From the late 80s, early 90s, all the way through the aughts, they figured out that they can get more people to watch their show if they stick with that vitriol. If they stick with that hate, if they push that out there. Instead of saying, “Hey, this is what happened today in this courtroom. Here are the facts. You know? Make of it what you want to make up.” No, they have to go on and they have to actually make the news themselves and they put a spin on it. They don’t tell you all the story on the inside and push that emotion. And then you sit there and you watch their channel all day, or you go and upload the refresh on their web site every day. So you can get the next news from them because it’s so important because your nerves and your –
Dr. Huber: And your emerging great sense of urgency because of your panic fight or flight mechanism going off. It’s telling you that you need to be there. It’s very, very difficult to overcome that.
Gabe: It’s sucked you right in.
Dr. Huber: It’s such a threat, in that websites need clickers. TV news needs to be watched, and print media needs to be downloaded.
Vincent: I don’t disagree with anything that you said. But one aspect to this that still sticks with me, which is that even though we’ve had this for quite a while, it seems to me that just in the past couple of years it has really accelerated. Is that just my own weird view or would you say that’s true?
Dr. Huber: I say it’s true. And if you think about it, go back to 2007, you know. And we had a little trickles of social media, and what has happened is it’s taken us a few years to catch up to the social media. And for the engineers who write the software to figure out how to capitalize on it in their advertising and their profit making. And that’s why in the last three to five years, where this is really just elevated. Because it has become such a science within that industry. Because they’re all fighting for half a cent per click here, and they need 15 million for it to make a profit. So, it’s very dog eat dog. And they’re not social scientists. They’re not our politicians, they’re not clergymen. They don’t care what they do to society and how they make people feel. They want to keep their doors open so they have a job tomorrow, and they’re very good at it. They just get better at it. And I think the last three or five men, they have honed their craft very well. We’re not at a point where we’ve learned to balance all this out. And go back to television, for example. You know, we had decades where we had three channels. And then we had some of the public broadcasting channel, but the local channel, and then we had some other UHF channels so now we have six or seven max channels that you have wherever you’re at in the United States. And then in the 70s, also you get a little bit of cable. Somehow you got 25 or 30 channels. And today we have 300 channels. So we had decades to adjust and to learn how to deal. Where we’ve had a decade to go from zero to 500 miles an hour, and we’re not we’re not able to manage yet. We’re having growing pains. We’re having a hard time dealing with this. I believe we’re resilient. I believe we will overcome it. I remember them telling us, you know, that Elvis had ruined American civilization. That we were no more, because he was gyrating on television. Well, we survived Elvis. We’re gonna survive this. It’s just gonna pass like a kidney stone.
Gabe: “Elvis the Pelvis.” I remember reading about that.
Dr. Huber: Yeah. It’s gonna pass like a kidney stone, but we’re gonna get through it.
Gabe: We’re gonna step away to hear from our sponsor, and we’ll be right back.
Narrator 2: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com, secure, convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.
Vincent: Welcome back. You’re listening to the Psych Central Show with guest Dr. John Huber.
Gabe: So, we’ve established that this is happening. I think you’ve convinced me. Hopefully, our listeners are like, “Okay I get it.” We’re not attacking anybody, we’re just saying that the media tells us what we want to hear and they have just ample data to figure out what we want to hear. How do we get around it? How do we stop? How do we get to the Elvis part where we stop hating Elvis?
Dr. Huber: What I recommend we do is, first thing, I have a new clinic starting, that we started up. And when people check in, we put them in, we call it a “sober house,” even if they don’t have addiction problems. Because what we’re doing is we’re trying to kind of clean their head. A mental hygiene thing. There’s no TV in the place, no news. They’re allowed to have one hour a day for Internet to e-mail family and friends or Skype with their kids. That kind of stuff. But there’s no, absolutely no, social media while they’re in there. And the whole idea is, we want them for 30 days to get their selves, their psyche, back connected with the world. With themselves, with the present, with the ground. And we do their treatment. Pretty heavy, intensive treatment. And it’s amazing how much just pulling them away from all of that artificialness of the ether net, to get them refocused and moving forward, and we’re able to have a lot of success in those 30 days. Versus other programs that are 90 days or more. 120 days. It’s because we do that. And it’s hard, and they want to fight us on it. What we tell them to do after that is, when they go home, they have to give themselves a break every week. And I asked for one day a week if they’re going to do this. This is a commitment I want, where you get up that day, and there’s no social media. There’s no news, nothing, until you wake up the next morning. It is just being present in the world today and dealing with what’s there and that kind of recharges you. We know that the CDC has identified social media in excess of two hours a day as causal for depression. The cure? Take a week off. It’s amazing. In fact, this past summer, I cut mine out for eight weeks. And it was hard, man, because I make a living on that stuff. And I have people in my office who are in there, you know, doing this stuff for me and doing all that kind of stuff. Don’t worry we got you covered. I’m like, “Please tell me what’s going on!” Nope, nope, the deal was you cut yourself off for eight weeks. After the second week, it wasn’t so bad. By the time it was over, I could care less. Absolutely I was. Whatever. Yeah. Oh, somebody’s birthday’s coming up. Cool. I don’t want to see their birthday cake and what they had for dinner. And it’s hard to do because it is a stimulus response feedback mechanism and it triggers off of dopamine. Very much like heroin does, very much like cocaine does, and it is very addictive but it doesn’t fulfill us emotionally like real face to face human contact. When we meet somebody, we have friends around, we shake hands, we’re in physical contact with those people. A lot of other hormones are released in your body, such as oxytocin which is a bonding hormone that starts that whole mechanism and it heals your immune centers and your body.
Dr. Huber: To help you fight off infection and things like that. It’s amazing. But why do we do on the screen? We click that “like” button, and we get a response feedback. Thanks, you know? And all of a sudden, if we get a like, internally, that dopamine drips and we get fulfilled. Only, it’s a lot like drinking a diet soda. It tastes sweet. It fills up your stomach. But there’s absolutely no nutritional value in that at all. And you’re not getting the nutrition you need. And that’s what social media is and it’s problematic. It’s addicting. And it leads us down this faulty thinking, because we want to be quick to respond. We get more of an endorphin rush from it. We get more dopamine, I mean, the faster we are. And we take this microcosm of information, and we believe it is the world. And everybody around you feels like that. So you stand up on your box and you scream it out to the world. And bam! You do it on your Instagram. You do it on your Facebook. You do it on Snapchat and Twitter, and you get inundated with those group think people. They are telling you how amazing you are and I should have said at first. And we talked about this before yada, yada, yada. So now you’re really getting feedback, and you’re really getting that stimulus response endorphin rush from that dopamine.
Gabe: Yeah, it feels good but there’s no substance.
Vincent: You mentioned earlier, when you said that you were taking a break for quite a while, that you make your living through social media. I’m kind of in the same boat in that I promote things via social media a lot, too.
Dr. Huber: Right.
Vincent: But at the same time, I’m sick of social media. I used to go on Facebook like all day long, like a lot of people. And now I hardly ever look at it and I’m much happier for it. It makes it difficult for those of us who really do want to walk away from it when we’re pulled back by this need to market.
Dr. Huber: It is hard, and that’s why I’ve got people.
Gabe: But is that really where the average person is? I mean that’s special for us. But is the average listener of the show running a business on Facebook? Or are they doing what I did before I had a business? And are we liars? You know, I tell people that the reason that I have Facebook is because I run a business. But I can make my posts, I can automate it. I could use a service like Hootsuite, and never ever look at Facebook. So I’m just a straight up liar. I scroll through those timelines and comments just like everybody else.
Dr. Huber: But the thing is the research suggests that over the last three years the majority of people who are daily users of social media have lost three friends. Not three, seven friends. And the average American has 12 good friends, and you’ve lost more than half of those in those three years. The real life friends who if you’re sick, they’re gonna make you chicken soup. That’s a sad statement.
Gabe: How do they prove that?
Dr. Huber: So, there are mathematical models to show these. I know from my experience with people in my practice, when they’re at their worst they’re not having a good life. Whatever’s happened to them, it’s happened to them. And when I asked them how many friends they have, and they’re happy to say that they have, like, two really good friends. So glad to have them. So where’s this twelve coming from? You know, I sit down and look, I’ve got a handful of friends that I think that are like my true close friends. That I could tell anything to. And literally, they have done this before. You know, when something’s happened and the car has broke down or something got stolen, and all of a sudden one of them is flying in from Denver and they’re there. That’s the friend group. Now, we have the acquaintance group that we know these people, we care about them. We’ve met them ,and have dinner with them every once in a while. You know, that’s the other fifteen hundred people on my Facebook page. Not really. But probably 500 of them are people that I’ve had dinner or lunch with before. And that’s kind of cool. I think I’ve been asked this question before, so I actually went through the thirteen or fourteen hundred people on my Facebook, that I have right now after starting over. I was impressed by how many I actually, really, truly knew. But not necessarily who I would call like a bff, a true best friend.
Vincent: How do we stop this? How do we change?
Gabe: Other than just ignoring social media? Because it’s not realistic. It’s not going to go away.
Gabe: I know the quick answer is, everybody should just get off social media. That’s never gonna happen right now.
Dr. Huber: And I don’t want you to. Again, that’s part of how I make my living. Right? What I say is, you need to take control of it and balance your life. OK? It’s just like weight management. It’s about food. It’s not about how much you exercise. Exercise helps, but if you’re not eating healthy it doesn’t matter how much you exercise.
Gabe: I like that.
Vincent: Yeah, that’s a good analogy. Although so many of us are bad at that on other things too.
Dr. Huber: My suggestion is, you set yourself a true, real, hard, fast limit. I’m going to only do an hour a day, or two hours a day, of social media. Then create things that get in the way of you being on that computer. Whether you actually schedule dinner meetings with people and friends have dinner appointments. I haven’t visited you in a long time, Cousin Sam. We’re going to dinner Thursday night. I’ll be there at this time. We’ve got reservations. Let’s go. What we do in my family is we do a lot of physical exercise in fun things. My son is 16 and is a second degree black belt. I’m almost a third degree black belt. My 14 year old daughter is almost a black belt. My wife has a black belt. We do hunting, we do fishing, we do camping we play sports, basketball, football, baseball, we play on community league. And that’s how my kids pay for their screen time. If they’re not doing those things, they don’t get on the computer because I won’t turn it on for them. So, it’s a balance. And that’s what it’s about.
Dr. Huber: It is so hard. In fact, with my kids, when they were little and they finally discovered computers, you know, they wanted to be on the computer every day. And, well, no. You need to do things. So we came up with an idea. My wife has a degree in Early Childhood. Of course, I started my career as a school psychologist. So what we did is we decided we were going to invest time in our kids and that’s what we did. Yeah. They went on the computer, so every night my wife and I would change the password to our computers and our screens and the tablet or anything else. And we would make a series of numbers, up to 13 digits long, and then we would make math problems, that if they answered correctly, and then put the answers in together to get those 13 digits, they would get the passcode. So, if they wanted on the computer, they have to go do math.
Gabe: I have heard about this evil.
Dr. Huber: And that was when they were like five or six, maybe seven years old. By the time my kids were in second or third grade, their friends hated me and my wife. Because we taught their parents that.
Vincent: That’s great.
Dr. Huber: You’ve got to do things like that. You have to be creative, because the world is changing. So we have to do things differently. If not, we’re using 1950s technology to deal with 2020 problems.
Gabe: And that’s a fair statement. Now one of the things that I try to do is I really do try to get my news from multiple sources.
Dr. Huber: Exactly, and that’s what you should do.
Gabe: I try to watch the local news. I try to watch MSNBC and Fox News. And it is interesting. If you ever need proof that our media has a bias, just watch the identical story on three different news channels.
Dr. Huber: Yeah I do even worse. I go to Pravda. I go to the Nikkei Weekly. You know, I get from China, whether it’s CGI or whatever. I do that. That’s where I’m looking. I’m not just looking at it internally here in America. And then I look at the BBC. Not at BBC America, but the BBC for Great Britain. And it’s amazing, because even in BBC America versus BBC for Britain it’s a different story.
Gabe: But I don’t think there’s anybody that’s going to disagree with you. Of course, we’re all going to disagree over whose fault it is. But I think the basic premise of, you know, we’re kind of being hoodwinked. I think everybody already feels that way. What is it? What is a final word for our listeners?
Dr. Huber: Well, I think if we try to point blame we’re falling into step with what they want. We have to stop pointing blame. We have to take a specific step within ourselves. Some what like you do with multiple sources for your news. We have to go ahead and say, “I’ve got to do my own legwork. I can not depend on somebody else to do it because they’re going to do it to their advantage and to my disadvantage.” So, you have to stand up to the plate. You have to swing that baseball bat. You can’t just sit there and hope for a ball’s pass over the plate, because life will pass you by and you’ll be left wondering what happened.
Gabe: I like it, I like it. Thank you so much for being here. We really really appreciate it.
Vincent: Yes, we do.
Gabe: Please tell us where we can find you?
Dr. Huber: You can find me in a couple places. My main web site is MainstreamMentalHealth.org. The problem is it takes forever to type that in. So we have an alternate address. Takes you to the same place. It is DrPsycho.org. D R P S Y C H O dot org. From there you can get into all of our social media, follow us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram, follow us on LinkedIn, and follow us on Facebook.
Gabe: You need to be on Facebook less, but hop on Facebook and check us out.
Dr. Huber: Exactly. You know what it is? We’re a good source. If you just want that daily inspiration, what we do on Facebook, for the non-profit, is we post stories about mental health issues that have arisen somewhere and somebody has taken the time to actually do some legwork and put that information out. Like one of the things we posted last spring, was evidence that suggests if you have Alzheimer’s or someone in your family or has Alzheimer’s, and they’re very agitated, find the music that they listened to when they were teenagers and play that music. And it’s amazing how they, almost every one of them, calms down and gets centered and quits acting out.
Gabe: Oh, that is very, very cool. Well, thank you again for being here. We really appreciate it and thank you everyone else for tuning in. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime anywhere by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week.
Narrator 1: Thank you for listening to the Psych Central Show. Please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you found this podcast. We encourage you to share our show on social media and with friends and family. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website. Psych Central is overseen by Dr. John Grohol, a mental health expert and one of the pioneering leaders in online mental health. Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who travels nationally. You can find more information on Gabe at GabeHoward.com. Our co-host, Vincent M. Wales, is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor and author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels. You can learn more about Vincent at VincentMWales.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. He is also the author of several award-winning novels and creator of the costumed hero, Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com.