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The Social Dilemma: A Discussion | Salty Talk 023 | THRR

Salty Talk is a special edition of Healthy Rebellion Radio. Each week on Salty Talk Robb will do a deep dive into current health and performance news, mixed with an occasional Salty conversation with movers and shakers in the world of research, performance, health, and longevity.
For the full the video presentation of this episode and to be a part of the conversation, join us in The Healthy Rebellion online community.

WARNING: These episodes may get “salty” with the occasional expletive.


Nicki and i finally got around to watching the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma.” We knew a fair amount of what was covered, we knew that at some point the developers of these platforms discovered that they made more money, garnered more shares and interaction by feeding us things that enrage or threaten us. You can know all that stuff but as I mention in the Salty Talk itself, what this reminded me of was the scientists after the Manhattan Project who knew that what they’d created represented an existential threat. A technology that could not just destroy civilization but humanity itself. I got that same sense here. Listen in as we discuss our thoughts about it, and what we’re currently doing with our own habits and social media.



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Download a copy of the transcript here (PDF)

Nicki: Welcome to the Healthy Rebellion Radio. This is an episode of Salty Talk, a deep dive into popular and relevant healthy performance news pieces mixed with the occasional salty conversation with movers and shakers in the world of research, performance, health and longevity. Healthy Rebellion Radio Salty Talk episodes are brought to you by Drink Element, the only electrolyte drink mix that’s salty enough to make a difference in how you look, feel and perform.

Nicki: We cofounded this company to fill a void in hydration space. We needed an electrolyte drink that actually met the sodium needs of active people, low-carb, keto, and carnivore adherence without any of the sugar colors and fillers found in popular commercial products. Health rebels, this is Salty Talk. And now, the thing our attorney advises, the contents of this show are for entertainment and educational purposes only.

Nicki: Nothing in this podcast should be considered medical advice. Please consult your licensed and credentialed functional medicine practitioner before embarking on any health, dietary or fitness change. And given that this is Salty Talk, you should expect the occasional expletive.

Robb: Oh, man.

Nicki: You feeling salty today, hubs?

Robb: Super salty, I think.

Nicki: As salty as you can be?

Robb: Salty as I can pull together today. How are you, wife? You’re looking quite lovely.

Nicki: I’m good. Thank you. I’m wearing my cozy SPG sweatshirt.

Robb: Not that it’s entered into quasi fall in the Texas Hill Country.

Nicki: It’s doable to wear a sweatshirt in Texas.

Robb: Mainly because we had the air conditioning running.

Nicki: Not today.

Robb: Not today, yeah. So, what’s new?

Nicki: Gosh, just had a live chat in the Healthy Rebellion community. The sleep chat, week two in the rebel reset. So, those are always a fun time.

Robb: That was a good time. There just are some absolutely random samples that emerge in those things.

Nicki: The conversations go in all directions. Usually, touching on stools at one point or another in almost all of them.

Robb: When people drop in late, they’re like, “What did I miss? And have you talked about poop yet?”

Nicki: Because usually, every time at least, there’s some poop discussion.

Robb: 60% of the time, we talk about poop 100% of the time. Yes. So, what’s on the docket today?

Nicki: Well, the last weekend, we watched the movie, the documentary, The Social Dilemma. And let’s see, Squatchy had watched it a few weeks back. Several people in the Healthy Rebellion community had watched it a few weeks back. Chris Kresser watched it. He was like, “This is a must watch.” So, we watched it.

Robb: We got ready to watch it. But it was a little close to bedtime. And we opted out of it because Nicki tends to internalize.

Nicki: I don’t like watching anything heavy or distressing near bedtime. And so, yeah, a few weeks back, we started it and I realized that we probably should watch it a little earlier in the day, so, yeah.

Robb: So, what did you make of it?

Nicki: Gosh, it’s pretty eye-opening. And I mean, it’s a lot of the stuff that they share is stuff that most of us have come across before. I mean, there’s the book that I read, gosh, several months back, 10 Reasons to Delete Your Social Media Accounts.

Robb: And he ended up in the film.

Nicki: … the author of that is featured in this as well. But it’s pretty eye-opening on how it all works and the effects it’s having on society.

Robb: I’m going to scroll up a little bit. I’m not even quite sure where to jump into this. Nicki and I have talked a lot about this. So, we’re going to talk about the film Social Dilemma and then just some of our social dilemma. We are a business and a service, a service-based business that exists largely due to-

Nicki: Our ability to reach people on the internet.

Robb: Yeah, yeah. And it’s an interesting time for that if people have been following the podcast and our story, they’ll know that Google gave us a massive haircut in website traffic a little over a year ago. And that was a major thing to contend with. Facebook has become an ever more challenging thing to do things like selling the keto masterclass and things like that.

Nicki: And I’m sure our listeners are aware and have seen these types of censorship things take place more and more now. JP Sears has been very vocal. He was censored, gosh, a couple months ago and he’s done several videos on that and a lot of people are experiencing this.

Robb: So, censorship is one piece of this story. Let’s say fake news is another piece of the story. We actually have a list of stuff we’re going to go through here. But another interesting feature to this situation is the way that these AI driven algorithms have basically pit us against one another. And I’ve related this story several times, but it still, it just blows me away. And again, this is different circumstances. I was talking to Nicki about this.

Robb: But I remember the old CrossFit message boards where we would have some pretty vigorous debates and this wasn’t like Greg Glassman being a dick or anything. He mainly hung out on the comments on the front page where the workouts were happening. And I was almost exclusively over in the forums, actually trying to help people. But it was interesting because I cultivated a little bit of a reputation for somewhat unhinged people being squirrely. And I would talk them off the ledge and create a place where we can come together.

Nicki: You were the peacemaker.

Robb: I was the peacemaker. Yeah. Yeah. And I think I had developed a little bit of a sense of like, I can reach just about anybody. I just need to be calm. And again, it’s not that I’m right about everything, but I do have an area of expertise. We’ve had success in certain arenas. And so, I had this expectation that if I’m reasonable and layout a good case, that it will be well-received. And over at Facebook, and I don’t even remember when we got on there. Was it 2008?

Nicki: I joined, I remember specifically it was 2006, because we had just moved in to our house on England Street in Chico.

Robb: Okay, so maybe I got in there in 2007 or something.

Nicki: And my friend from college, Nicole, I got an email saying that she had joined and she invited me to join.

Robb: That might have been when it was still called the Facebook or something.

Nicki: It probably was, yeah.

Robb: Yeah. And I remember initially, it was cool reconnecting with some friends and family. And you could find all kinds of information and the way that you could share links. And this really slick, easy process was cool, because this was still in the time of WordPress blogs. And every time you put something up, it was just a chore. You got to resize this photo and you have to do this and that, all that stuff’s gotten better over time. But it still is nowhere as easy is as social media.

Robb: And I remember when you were working at Frontdesk, there was a pretty big discussion around, do you even bother keeping a blog or a presence outside of social media. Because man, social media was slick, and that’s where brands really were building their cachet. And for a variety of reasons, we decided to keep presence both places. But the whole point of this meandering deal is, this goes back again to the shellfish topic, like these fucking shellfish where I-

Nicki: Sorry.

Robb: Oh, we have a bird.

Nicki: It’s a bird flying towards our window, and we already had one hummingbird death last week, which was traumatic.

Robb: You didn’t see it, there was a moth up there and it plucked it off of the window, so.

Nicki: Oh, I missed that part. I just saw it come close. And I was afraid it was going to smash its head into the window and-

Robb: We just had this circle of life occur during the podcast. But folks will probably remember this. There was an article in the Journal of Physics, it was talking about it was discovered that shellfish produce just prodigious amounts of methane. And again, this was maybe six years ago. It was before Wired to Eat was published. It was a good long time ago. And I posted something the effect that this is why we need to have a real nuanced discussion around climate change.

Robb: Because if we get elements of this story wrong, we’re going to inherently specifically make decisions that are not going to benefit us. And a friend at that time, a person that I had acknowledged in my first book that, she helped edit books, and we had had a collegial relationship for, I don’t know, 10 years or whatever. She freaked out on me. And she started really pushing, “What do you mean by this?” And I was trying to explain it.

Robb: And then, she finally said, and this individual is Jewish, by the way, and we had had discussions around all kinds of things related to that. But she said, “Well, in my experience, anybody who questions anything around the accepted narrative of climate change is also likely a holocaust denier.” And I was then and still now just absolutely floored by that. Now, it’s interesting because I think discussions like that today in woke culture and everything that’s going on, it’s almost I think people have built callus to it.

Robb: But six years ago, and from someone that’s actually like a friend and a colleague, and someone that’s close enough that I would actually acknowledge them in my book, I was just floored. And I still am just floored. And I wasn’t even really sure where to go with that. And as time has gone on, everything that I talked about in that original post has borne itself out with the need to have a nuanced discussion around climate change, and that just lumping all greenhouse gases together is not a good idea.

Robb: So, I was right about that. And in part of being able to be right about things is having discussions, but it was so perplexing to me. Because man, I really tried to reach this person. And again, not to say that I’m inherently right, but one of the best ways that I can fix not being right is by having a good discussion.

Nicki: Dialogue.

Robb: Yeah, dialogue. People make a good case. And it’s like, “Oh, okay, I really appreciate that.” And it felt like it’s just been really one sided for a long time. Somebody would dump something on there about nuclear energy, or whatever. And I would make this really long case and citations and this and that, and then I would get a one-word response of I disagreed, or whatever. And then, I don’t know, it was maybe three years ago that we learned that these algorithms were being optimized to pit us against one another.

Robb: That it was literally a story of like, “Okay, Robb, you’ve been online, and we know what things make you happy, and we know what things trigger you. And we’re going to send you nothing that makes you happy, nothing that enriches your life. But we are going to send you everything possible to trigger you.”

Nicki: Because if you see something happy, that’s fine, and you tend to smile inside and then scroll on. Whereas, they found that the things that kept people engaged and active were the things that got under their skin. So, when they show you those types of things, you click on it, you’re more likely to comment, you’re more likely to share it to people and write your little rant about it. And so, it keeps users on the site on these applications longer, which is what they want.

Nicki: Because the main point of this film is that the product that these social media platforms are selling is us. So, they’re selling our time, our attention to advertisers. And so, the business model is selling us. And so, if they can keep us on screen, and the way to do that is to get us angry and riled up, then they keep us on longer, and they make more money off of us.

Robb: And it’s worked incredibly well. And I don’t know how many folks listening have not watched the film yet. And I don’t think we’re going to end up giving it away. It’s not really-

Nicki: I mean, we’re going to talk about some of the things that they mentioned, but it’s worth watching. It’s worth watching with your kids. Ours are a little young, they watched part of it and then got distracted.

Robb: We talked to them a little bit.

Nicki: But we talked to him about it. One of the biggest disturbing things that they mentioned, which I know has been shared but teen suicides are up.

Robb: Shocking.

Nicki: Shockingly, and young, preteens, middle school.

Robb: Cutting.

Nicki: Yep. And they tie all of this to this, you post something and you get likes, and if you don’t get enough, for kids whose brains are not fully mature, I mean, even adults don’t have-

Robb: I don’t think it’s good for anybody.

Nicki: It’s not good for anybody. But yeah.

Robb: We’ll touch on that, but it’s just I think even more cratering for a child or an adolescent who-

Nicki: Still forming their view of themselves and their confidence. Your preteen years, confidence is not high in most of our youth. Your parents are going through puberty, there’s all of this stuff. And so, when you’re in a social media app environment as a young person, you internalize whether or not people like your stuff, the comments that people get, and it’s-

Robb: The preteen suicides and self-harm had gone up something like-

Nicki: 400%. It was really, really high.

Robb: And the teenage was 150 or 200%. But I mean shocking increases in this stuff. So, when we were discussing this on the Healthy Rebellion itself, someone made an interesting observation. He said something, “I always like to think about what angle these documentaries are trying to get at, and what’s the span, what’s the angle,” which I think is a helpful thing to do because these films is part of the reason why we did Sacred Cow. You can tell a big story in a fairly short period of time and you can have some, yeah-

Nicki: Forks over knives or game changers. There’s always an agenda. So, understanding what the agenda is a good frame of reference when you’re watching something.

Robb: But I’m at a loss for this one, particularly when you get near the end of the film. And so, a book ended with both the front and back. The people in the film are one step removed from the Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg, these were people that were at the founding of these companies, like the Tristan guy was the guy that developed the monetization scheme for Facebook.

Nicki: That was a different guy, but yeah. But all of them are very early, very high up in this-

Robb: But when you look at their credentials, it was developed the monetization for Facebook, developed the monetization for Google, developed Google Maps, Gmail. It was on and on and on. And the thing that struck me and all these people are incredibly concerned about this stuff now. And cynics could be like, “Well, they made their money. And so now, they’re just trying to tear it down.” And there might be some truth to that.

Robb: But what it really made me think of, I was like, “What’s an example of this?” At the end of the film, the Tristan guy, when they said, “How do you see all of this finishing out?” he said, “Civil War.” Let me finish the thought here. All of these people expressed concerns around like this is an existential threat, maybe not to the species, but at least to the society as we understand it, like civilization as we understand it.

Robb: And the only other thing that I can think of that was similar is at the end of the Manhattan Project, when they successfully detonated an atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer said, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” He quoted from the Bhagavad Gita. And virtually, all of the physicists involved in developing nuclear weapons technologies spent the rest of their lives trying to put that genie back into a bottle, or at least make sure that genie did not kill us all.

Robb: They recognized it immediately as an existential threat. Within World War II, the Germans were trying to develop this technology in theory, the Russians were trying to, everybody was in literally an arms race. And I guess, fortunately, the US won that arms race. Now in this day and age, everybody would probably think that somebody else should have developed nuclear weapons ahead of the United States. But that’s a topic for another day.

Robb: But I see these people as being very, very similar to the scientists at the beginning of nuclear weapons. And the horror that these people had, this was a project that they poured their hearts and souls into in both of these camps. It was incredibly intellectually engaging and challenging. It changed the world. And they were immediately, they have become horrified by the consequences of that change, and are now trying to get out in front of some of the consequences of all this.

Nicki: And clearly, there have been a ton of positive that has come from the creation of these social media platforms, like people connecting with other people, just the ability to raise funds for somebody in need. There’s long, long lost family and friends. And there’s been a ton of positive stuff that has come. But I think the main thing that they kept hammering home was that, really, it is the monetization structure, which has caused it to go south.

Nicki: At least, that’s what I took away from it. Because they are monetizing us because we, the user, are the product, because the way to get us to spend the most time, psychologically, is to show us drama filled things that are going to get us. Just psychologically, we pay more attention to negativity and things-

Robb: And this is good evolutionary biology wiring it, a threat to us.

Nicki: We need to pay to it, yeah, otherwise we might die.

Robb: Yes. And this is why two people saying, “Hey, thank you for the work you’ve done. You saved my life,” that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. But then, the one person who says, “You’re a shithead. I hate you, paleo sucks,” whatever.

Nicki: You just want the planet to die.

Robb: Yeah, you just want the planet to die. You hate old people. Yeah, you hate animals, you hate old people, you hate everybody. Those things have to disproportionately impact us because we wouldn’t be here as a species if it didn’t. If we just ignored, and again, this is because we evolved in small groups, and if somebody had an ax to grind against us, we had super tuned social hound dog psychic understanding for that. Because interestingly, when you look at pre-industrial societies, about 50% of the death is from homicide.

Robb: It’s a really violent scene. And it’s, again, where people think our modern world sucks, and it’s horrible. And actually, you’ll look around. And it’s pretty good compared to what it could be, which is, again, circles back around to some of the challenges that we have. One of the things that they talked about was this whole notion of fake news. I think I had a little bit of a discussion about this on Instagram when I posted a piece basically that the CDC had changed its position on something. And that’s fine.

Robb: CDC can change its position on something. It should change its position on something when the information dictates that. But the way that the information monopolies, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, have drawn a line in the sand, if the CDC changes its mind, it is now contradicting itself. And they’ve said that we will only promote information that is accepted by credible authorities. And so, that means like Mayo Clinic, WebMD, all these things that are owned-

Nicki: WHO.

Robb: WHO, they’re owned by these multinational organizations, by people that you don’t even know who exactly owns them, and generally, they probably have most-

Nicki: Who’s’ funding them.

Robb: Yeah, who’s funding them, what the motivations are. But the thing is, this is something, and I don’t know, I keep railing about it. And again, I don’t know if this is a feature of social media itself, or it’s like, my ideas only make it to people that get pissed off by those ideas. And so, it just goes nowhere. Which is part of the reason we did what we did.

Robb: And we’ll get to that in a minute. But the point I’ve been trying to make is that when these information monopolies have taken it upon themselves to curate to be the final arbiter of pure review in scientific discussions. And these are, I’m sure, very smart people at Google and Facebook and all the rest of it. They’re not scientists. They are not subject matter experts on this topics. And-

Nicki: I mean, if you guys listen to our most recent Q&A episode before this one, you were talking about Ignaz Semmelweis, right? So, had Twitter and Facebook been around then, and he was like, “Hey, maybe we should have people wash their hands after whinging on a cadaver and before going to help a woman in labor,” Twitter would say, fake news. And the guy would be banished from the interwebs.

Nicki: And more people would die because nobody’s open to hearing something that maybe at that point, sounded completely outlandish but now, decades, a century later, is no shit, people should wash their hands after touching a dead body and going and touching.

Robb: Well, not just touching as doing an autopsy and going there. And this is literally what we’re talking about. And we’re dealing with COVID, we’re dealing with cancer, we’re dealing with obesity, and all these different things. And new ideas pop up from the fringe. Any doctor somewhere does a case report on something. And it goes contrary to the dominant narrative. Now, we don’t just immediately embrace this and say, “Oh, because it’s different, we believe it. But if it’s-

Nicki: Today’s climate, we immediately need to eviscerate this person, though because it’s outside.

Robb: It’s even beyond that. We make it disappear. It’s possibly even worse in a way because-

Nicki: Then nobody can find it again to even test it, and is it replicatable?

Robb: … or talk about it or any of those things. And there is certainly fake news. There are these bot farms that come in and do all kinds of squirrely shit, and we need to be doing something about that. But the “fake news” topic is something that makes me crazy. And maybe it’s because I’m peddling pseudoscience, paleo and keto and all this, and if I would just be a good aye aye, captain and-

Nicki: Just peddle everything in moderation.

Robb: Mediterranean moderation, and I’m good to go.

Nicki: Whole grains are good for you, including wheat for everybody.

Robb: For everybody. And again, for the folks listening, I don’t know if this shit’s going to be helpful for you guys at all. I don’t know, we thought it would be interesting to talk a little bit about it. One of the things, again, I’m literally in this existential crisis, because I don’t know if saying something on social media now is helping anyone. And we’ll talk maybe a little bit more about how we’ve pulled back on that. But if mainly what’s happening is the only things that get really recirculated well is controversy, which we’ve seen that, and we’ll talk about that in just a little bit.

Robb: On the days when we have Robb loses his shit, it’s more interesting, I get more likes, I also get more hate mail. But there’s this wacky symmetry to it. If it’s inflammatory, you get both more hate mail but also more people like, “Attaboy, that’s the way to do it.” And it becomes really perplexing about like, “What am I doing here?” When you think about these algorithms just pitting everybody against one another, it really begs the question like, should we do anything?

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Nicki: So, we were talking about the need to be on Instagram or as a business and the things that you do and posting. And is it really doing anything? After watching that, I had a thought, I’m like, okay, so you post something that’s nuance rich, and you get a handful of comments. We post these clips to our episodes thinking that people will watch a 60-second clip from our podcast and then go download the actual full episode and that would maybe grow our subscriber base to our podcast.

Nicki: I mean, we brought over the number of people we brought over from The Paleo Solution Podcast. But I can’t say we’ve seen any increase after the first two or three months of launching the Healthy Rebellion Radio to now. We’re pretty consistent on our downloads, but I don’t know that it’s helping, right? And we were talking about this afterwards. I don’t know…

Robb: And my Instagram account has grown a lot.

Nicki: You’ve got 95,000 followers on Instagram right now. But I’m like, if we had doubled that, would we have more listeners to our podcast? Would we have more members in the Healthy Rebellion community? I really don’t know. I feel like everybody that’s joining the community, when they join, they say, “Oh, I’ve been following you for a long time,” or five fives, six listeners like, they know all of these-

Robb: The deep history?

Nicki: Old school phrases and they’ve been following you for a long time. So, I’m like, I don’t know that it’s really-

Robb: Doing a goddamn thing. Yeah.

Nicki: We’re not actively selling anything on Facebook like what we did with the keto masterclass a couple years ago, but we we’ve ceased all Facebook ads for quite some time. We use it a little bit for Element occasionally. But this is just something that Robb and I talked about a lot. Obviously, if he posts a picture of him working out or without a shirt, he’ll get-

Robb: Get some attaboys but-

Nicki: Ten times, 20 times the engagement on a post like that, but like, what is it really doing for us?

Robb: It would be really easy to do the things, and clearly people do, you get it a beautiful Pavlovian feedback. You do A and you get five likes. You do B and you get 500 likes. Well, clearly I’m going to keep doing B. And keep doing B oftentimes involves, for dudes, gram of testosterone, get super jacked. Deliver stories about stuff that’s on point, but not really. And you sell this magical dream, and then here’s all the shit on the backend.

Robb: That’s okay, I guess. But I have always had this notion that I would make a living by helping people and then by extension, if I had some other shit for sale that they would find some benefit, and that’s generally worked, but it’s definitely become super toxic. And-

Nicki: Well, Robb, you also, I think, at least until the past five days, have been really accessible online.

Robb: Let me touch that. Thank you for bringing that up. I looked at my presence on social media as a job, I actually looked at it as I’m going to serve these people because they are the people who are supporting me. And so, I answered private messages, public messages, I mean, hours and hours-

Nicki: But when we were launched the Healthy Rebellion community, you did pull back, and you were primarily inside the Healthy Rebellion, answering questions there. But then, people would ask questions and Sacred Cow launched and all this stuff. So, you get pulled back and you start engaging more on these platforms. And it has a noticeable effect on your mood, your outlook. And again, like what is it really doing? Especially when most like, I would say, what, out of every 10 interactions, eight, or half of them, somebody-

Robb: No, no, it’s not that much. It might even be one in 50 interactions are negative. But that’s the wacky thing. And again, some people will say, “Well, you just need to grow some thicker skin or something.” Somebody was giving me some grief, like I had done the post on the CDC in them changing position, this woman brought up an interesting point where she was like, “Well, what are you really saying here, Robb? Are you just trying to keep your head down so you don’t get in trouble or this and that?”

Robb: And she had maybe 250 followers. I asked her, I’m like, “What do you do to make your living?” She’s like, “I’m an engineer.” I said, “Would you put all of your social political thoughts online and make that contingent on whether or not you tie that into your engineering job?” And she was like, “Oh, no, I definitely wouldn’t do that.” I’m like, “Yeah.” And I do actually think some of my social political views dovetail into health, dovetail into food systems, and energy and resources and all that.

Robb: And that is the only reason why I talk about that stuff. Because it’s not abs, it’s not skinny jeans, it doesn’t lend itself well to monetizing shit and selling things like that. Diana and I, if we make anything off of either the book or film, it’s literally going to be minimum wage effort for that. And it’s still fine, I would still do it.

Nicki: For Diana in particular, because all of the time that she put into that film.

Robb: Yeah. And so, if some miracle happens, and it gets picked up and really gets broadly distributed, it might be a different deal. But it’s not looking like that. It’ll be important, it’ll make an important change for things. But financially, we could have collected cans on the side of the road, probably done better financially than the effort put into that. And it also exposes us to a good amount of criticism and ridicule both in this community and outside of the community.

Robb: What the heck was my… my point to that, just wondering, what is it-

Nicki: Well, after watching this movie. And if you pick up that book, 10 reasons to just delete your social media right now, which I read several months ago, and it’s pretty compelling, if you’re like me, you want to just delete them right away. Instagram is really the only app that I still had on my phone. But I rarely posted anything.

Robb: But you scrolled a lot.

Nicki: But I would scroll. Yeah, I would scroll. Facebook, I would delete, although I’m still a part of two groups that I access. And then, also my account is tied to our ad account. So, if I delete me, then the ad account needs to, I guess, it could just be tied to you. I don’t know. But you watched it and you’re like, gosh, you already know it’s bad for you, right? You already know that you spend a disproportionate amount of your time just wasting it on these apps. And then, it’s like, what do you do? So, we watched this thing. And then, we deleted the only app we had left, which was Instagram off of our phones.

Robb: Other than the Healthy Rebellion app, that’s the only social media app we have.

Nicki: Yeah. And gosh, it’s been pretty darn nice.

Robb: It’s been nice, but it’s also been odd. And we’re both still working. We’re very fortunate we work from home. We’re very lucky, all the rest of that stuff. It seems like every goddamn statement these days need some an exculpatory clause attached to it. But we’re still working, we still do the work. But I think for both of us, we’ve gotten more done. We’ve actually, at the end of the day, gotten both more done, and had more time left over. We’re like, “Hey, kids, want to go for a walk? Hey, kids, want to throw rocks over the back fence?” I mean-

Nicki: I played Go Fish yesterday with Sagan because she wanted to play. And not that I wouldn’t play with her before, but it’s like you grab your phone, and you click on the thing. And then, you have your handful of people that you follow, or at least for me, a handful of people that I like to see what they’re posting. And then, you just scroll. And then, you’re liking your friend’s picture of their dog. It just sucks you in. You find yourself sitting on the toilet with your phone. All of this stuff where instead you can be free to do any number of things.

Robb: And so, it’s been weird for me and that I feel both happier, more productive, more creative. I came up with some ideas that I think are really cool. And some things I want to write about, maybe some Salty Talk type things that I want to do. And then, there’s actually a window of time in my day to do those things. I have still been a little bit torn on what’s my obligation to serving the greater good. And so, I deleted the app off of my phone. I figured out a workaround for how to do things from my desktop.

Robb: And that way, I’ve gotten a dedicated chunk of time. I literally have no reason to bring my phone with me to take a dump now because there’s nothing to look at. It’s all off. Whereas before, it’s like, “Oh, gee what’s interesting stuff to look at on Instagram?” So, for now, what I’m going to continue doing is posting things that I think are important. I’ve got a thing that I’m looking at, drawing a parallel between smoking cessation, and the messaging that we provide around weight loss.

Robb: I think there’s a really interesting discussion to be had around that. I’m going to put a little bit more effort into the frontend of fleshing out what my ideas are on stuff like that. And then, that’s it. I’m not answering comments. If somebody wants to interact more, then you come over the Healthy Rebellion and we’ll talk all day about it. I’m doubling down on the time spent over there but this Freddie Freeloader thing over in social media land, there’s multiple pieces to it.

Robb: One is people have gotten into this mode where a lot of people feel like information should be free. Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t. Some people think information is worth paying for-

Nicki: Well, maybe it could be free. But conversation, meaningful conversation, meaningful interaction is not.

Robb: Yeah, yeah. And so, there’s still going to be some content that goes out there that hopefully will help people think about some stuff and empower them and all that type of type of jive. But the ability to interact with me on a more meaningful ways not really going to be there. I’m still working my way through Atlas Shrugged, this only last book. But this is a little bit of my Galt’s Gulch deal. And my Galt’s Gulch is the Healthy Rebellion.

Robb: And if I know for a fact that the work that I’m doing is being used to pit the people around me, people ostensibly that I love, I like helping people. The one thing that has really kept me in the fight is that almost daily, we get some email, some communications like, “Hey, what you guys have done saved my life, saved my kid’s life, saved my wife’s life.” Even though there’s a lot of other bullshit, you get one of those and you’re like, “Okay, this is why we’re doing it. And this is why we’re not going to stop doing it. At least not yet.”

Robb: But at the same time, I also know without a doubt that our work is being used to pit us against one another. And I’m not really going to play a party in that. And so, for right now, we’re going to continue to put some material out, like the podcast is probably going to go for the long haul. I will still post some musings on Instagram. But the bulk of my work is going to go into the Healthy Rebellion. And maybe it’s career suicide, I don’t know.

Robb: But when we were working for CrossFit, we got paid really, really well. And we saw a bunch of fucked up stuff in there. And we couldn’t just turn our eyes away from that. There were a lot of people that could, because it was easy for them to just keep doing what they were doing and keep them paid I couldn’t fucking do it. And if I need to go do something else, if I need to become a deep-sea diving-

Nicki: Go farmer.

Robb: Go farming or whatever, I’ll do that. But it’s going to be on my terms. If what I’m trying to do, what we’re trying to do to help people isn’t worth it in the market of ideas, then this thing shrivels up and dies, and this is one evolutionary branch of the social media online tree, okay, that’s where homo Robbicus, Nickicus ends, and that’s the end of its line. And if it is valuable, then maybe it’s valuable to a couple of thousand people over in the rebellion.

Robb: And that’s good enough for me. There’s another piece to this story, which is that we are evolutionarily equipped to deal with criticism from a few dozen or maybe 100 people. We are not evolutionarily equipped to deal with criticism and insanity from tens or hundreds of thousands of people. We’re just not.

Nicki: And they make that point in the film. And they wrapped the whole thing up with like, can this be fixed? Well, Zuckerberg thinks that they can develop some AI to fix it. He thinks that if they work on their AI stuff, the AI can monitor the other AI and all. And there was another woman who spoke, she was a PhD in this field. And she said that that was utterly preposterous. And the Tristan guy, they asked, is it fixable? Is there a way forward?

Nicki: And he’s like, “There has to be something that has to be done in it.” Yeah, it’s both just on the social level and the ramifications of everybody essentially just yelling and arguing with each other. But then also, interestingly, on a business level, so we’re not on Facebook, what if we have a new thing? What if we wanted to put some ad spend facade behind Sacred Cow? How do you do it in a way that isn’t just fueled from people being angry at each other?

Nicki: And I guess this is for these developers and these people to figure out is like, what could the new monetization strategy be that makes it good for a platform, but also great for the… businesses need to be somewhere right? This is a hard thing for a lot of folks. We’ve had people in the Healthy Rebellion regenerative farmers, they sell their meat, they use their Facebook business page to reach their customers.

Nicki: And that’s the number one way that they get sales for their meat. And they’re maybe in a really rural area, and they’d love to get off Facebook. But they feel like they can’t because it would directly impact their bottom line. So, what’s the alternative for-

Robb: So, there are a lot of good things. Sibyl in the Healthy Rebellion, she’s organizing a thing around the holidays, where she’s been buying fresh food to give to local food pantries, fresh meat and fruits and vegetables. I mean, she had like a giant ass shopping cart of food that she dropped off. And the people at the food bank were like, this is all fresh meat. And they were just flabbergasted like-

Nicki: Because normally, they get things out of a box and cans because they just get shelf stable stuff. So, these people are not getting access to anything fresh.

Robb: Yeah. And so, we could do things like that. We could help support the daisy chaining of local decentralized food production into a scalable entity that is a real threat to the industrial food system that could be a legit contender and could replace it and replace it in a way that leaves so much more for us. But the interesting thing is the way that these information monopolies have worked, the big players are all that succeed.

Robb: You hit a point where now, you can’t really be a mom-and-pop operation and have a good idea and spin it up on the interweb quite the same way. Because all this information is curated and the good ideas aren’t rewarded for being good ideas. Now, it needs to follow a certain sociopolitical bend and whatnot. And so, it was an interesting little golden age of the internet, where good ideas got rewarded by people finding it and respecting it. And granted, there was a lot of dog shit, too, but that’s just life.

Robb: That’s having to learn how to sort through some of these things. But it’s become something where the most wealthy powerful people in the world now are using us to become even wealthier and more powerful to make it more difficult for newbies to enter the scene. And by all accounts, they seem to be shredding our social fabric. So, I’m not entirely sure where we will play out in this story. For sure, we’re thinking about some other things to do with the podcast to try to offer value to people. We both enjoy doing this. I super enjoy doing it.

Robb: But it’s going to change. We’re going to change. We’re not going to be the cog in this system that we’ve been originally. And again, if that means this experiment dies, then this experiment dies. But it’s going to happen on our terms. I’ve said this before, under certain circumstances, you can ignore a situation when you’re ignorant to it. But then, once you’re enlightened to it, then the choices become a lot more clear and much more difficult to continue making the wrong decision.

Nicki: Or it’s like in jujitsu when somebody’s trying to pass your guard and you know that your guards almost over, open. And instead of just sitting there and letting them open it, you open it first.

Robb: Open it on your terms, and be ready for the next step, yeah.

Nicki: And maybe sweep them and end up on top.

Robb: Exactly. Control the risk, though. So, you got anything else? I think we hit most over-

Nicki: Gosh, the other big takeaway, which I know like Steve Jobs had said this, and this is not anything new. But at the end, several of the guys and gals were mentioning, kids on screens and kids on social media. And it was like none, zero. And one gentleman said he didn’t feel like kids should have any social media until they are at least 16. And so, just some food for thought for everyone with children. I know we’ve mentioned in previous shows that sometimes our kids would play little games on iPad if they did their school and they earned it and did all their chores and whatnot. But this week also, those are gone.

Robb: Because in those games, they asked the kids to watch a video-

Nicki: Earn an extra gem. And unlock this if you watch this video. And so, then they watch a video. And one time, Zoe was like, “Mama, they had the watch a video about a five-star restaurant.” I was like, “Really?” And she’s like, “Yeah, it’s called Denny’s.” I was like, “Okay, wow.”

Robb: We should have burned those things immediately. But yeah, I mean, the kid deal, it’s just huge. Similar to food, similar to sleep. So this weekend, the rebellion was the sleep week. And a good number of people add questions about their kids, like, “Well, our kids are on devices until late.” And I don’t know how to say this other than directly, and we said-

Nicki: And I think a great thing, especially if your kids are, ours are six and eight. And so, this didn’t capture their attention enough to watch the whole thing with us. But I think if you have preteen, teenage kids, I think this could be a must watch for your family as a family, and then have a good discussion around it. And in the movie, they highlight a family that has three teenagers and-

Robb: It’s fictionalized, but they do a really good job, yeah.

Nicki: But very realistic. And I just think it’s a great conversation point. And we’ve said to our kids all the time, “I know these apps are fun, I know you’re enjoying it, but it’s not good for your brain. It’s not good for mom and dad’s brains. They make these things so that you stay addicted and so that you stay on the screen really, really long time and that’s not good for your brain. It’s not good for your body. It’s better to be outside, blah, blah, blah.” We have a conversation around it. And I think any of you listening, if your kids are on devices a lot and you’re wanting to minimize that, this movie would be a great starting point for that conversation.

Robb: The fictionalized piece in this, I think it’s well done. It’s not like Academy Award winning acting, but the scenes of a family sitting around the dinner table, and everybody’s on devices. And you extrapolate forward, the kids graduate and go to college. The husband and wife live their life mainly on their phones. It was just gut-wrenching. And I don’t know, maybe I’m just literally a caveman, an anachronism from another time. But I project forward imagining being on my deathbed and thinking back about like, “Oh, what did I do? What did I not do?”

Robb: And one of the things I don’t want to do is have my family spend our whole goddamn existence looking at a screen and not interacting. Some days, I do like five minutes alone in the bathroom so I can just breathe and not want to go throttle somebody in my family. But I only need five minutes. And I don’t need an iPhone with me to do it. But if you try on a sweater like that about where do you want to be 10 years from now, by the time a kid is in junior in high school, the numbers suggest you’ve spent something 95% of all the time you will ever spend with that kid in your life.

Robb: It’s like, holy shit. And so, that’s just blazing by. And can we even count it as time spent together for all just nose in a phone? We go out to eat occasionally. And again, I don’t want to portray this as some like a superiority complex or something like that. But we all talk, we all interact, we’ll pull out pages and color and do stories and all that. And-

Nicki: Or the kids will play on the playground, because a lot of restaurants here have outdoor playgrounds. And they’ll go play. And then, we actually get to have a conversation.

Robb: Then, we should have a conversation. But that strikes me is a way different experience, hopefully even for the kids. When they look back and when we’re gone, and they’re like, “Oh, that was really cool. So, you didn’t talk to your parents? You and your parents spent the whole time on the phone? Wow, I didn’t do that like.” And again, I don’t know, maybe we’re setting our kids up for failure because they’re going to be the only kids that don’t have this experience.

Robb: But again, it’s similar to just stepping away from social media for us. If that’s the wrong decision, then I guess we’re just going to deal with the consequences of that. But it doesn’t feel like the wrong decision, doesn’t look like the wrong decision. It’s not the easy decision in many ways. It’s not the way that the world is incentivizing the way that we should behave. But God damn it, it’s not the way that we’re going to do it.

Nicki: And with that, folks, we will wrap up-

Robb: Might be the last Salty Talk ever. But probably not.

Nicki: Thank you all for listening. Thanks for joining us. Remember to check out our show sponsor Ned and give their new sleep blend a try. Go to helloned.com/salty15, or enter code salty15 at Checkout to get 15% off your first one-time order, or 20% off your first subscription order, plus free shipping. That’s H-E-L-L-O-N-E-D.com/salty15. Thanks everyone. And we’ll see you soon.

Robb: Take care. Delete all the apps off your phone. Give it a shot. You can always put them back.

Nicki: As always, Salty Talk episodes are brought to you by Drink Element, the only electrolyte drink mix that’s salty enough to make a difference in how you look, feel and perform. Get salty at drinklmnt.com. That’s drink L-M-N-T.com.


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