In this week’s Fast Talk podcast, we chat with digital media addiction expert Tracy Markle, who has spent many years working with children and adults—many of them athletes—to help them find balance in our tech-driven world. As Markle highlights in the show, social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and sport is no exception. There was a time when an athlete’s only job was to train and perform. Now it’s typically a requirement that they have a strong social media following—and this can be as important in getting a contract as race results and potential.
But there can be a dark side to this growing social media presence that affects how athletes interact with their sport, and it’s here that some of Markle’s work has focused. She is the founder of the Digital Media Treatment and Education Center, and talks in depth in the show about what some of the latest brain science and research tells us about social media.
We talk about the impacts social media can have on athletes—including recovery, training, sleep, and emotional wellbeing. After a race, some athletes are more concerned about posting on social than they are with recovering. And while there were already issues with athletes investing too much of their self worth in results, now they can get an immediate and visceral response to a poor performance through social media. While social media can give athletes a quick dopamine hit, too much can drive depression and impact resilience. This is all particularly true for junior athletes who are still developing and have only ever known a digital world that delivers instant gratification with likes and shares.
In the show, we discuss how the immediate solution to the problem might be in better management of social media, and this is where coaches can have an enormous impact on their athletes and can guide them to find the right balance. Markle also provides tips and pointers for anyone looking to improve or reassess their use of social media.
So, put down your phone—unless you’re using it to listen to this podcast—and let’s make you fast!
Trevor Connor 00:05
Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance! I’m your host Trevor Connor, here with Coach Grant Holicky and Fast Talk Labs own Emma-Kate Lidbury. Social media has pervaded every aspect of our lives and sport is no exception. There was a time when an athlete’s only job was to train and perform. Now it’s typically a requirement that they have a strong social media following—and this can be as important in getting a contract as race results and potential. But there can be a dark side to this growing social media presence in sports that’s affecting how athletes interact with their sport. After a race, some athletes are more concerned about posting on social than they are with recovering. And while there were already issues with athletes investing too much of their self-worth in their results, now they can get a very immediate and visceral response to a poor performance through their social media. Social media adds a layer of complexity to an already complex conversation when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of athletes. So, in today’s episode, we talk about the impacts it has on athletes – including recovery, training, sleep, and their mental state. Social media can give athletes a quick dopamine hit. But too much can drive depression and impact their resilience. This is all particularly true for Junior athletes who are still developing and have only ever known a digital world that delivers instant gratification with likes and shares. They are more susceptible than any of us to the impact of social media. The answer, however, isn’t to get rid of social media. There does appear to be a sweet spot. The answer is more to manage it. And this is where coaches, who can have an enormous impact on their athletes, can guide them to find the right balance. Helping us to navigate this tricky subject today is Tracy Markle, a renowned digital media addiction expert and Founder of the Digitial Media Treatment and Education Center. She has spent years helping children and adults, many of them athletes, find balance in the digital age. So, put down your phone – unless you’re using it to listen to this podcast – and let’s make you fast! Hey, listeners, this is Trevor Connor, co host of Fast Talk and CEO of Fast Talk Laboratories. For years we’ve been sharing our training, coaching, knowledge, and experience through the Fast Talk podcast. We’ve been able to connect you with some amazing experts in endurance sports base like Dr. Stephen Seiler, Joe Friel, Dr. Stacey Sims and Dr. Inigo San Millan. Help us keep bringing you world class experts by supporting us through Patreon. Just log on to patreon.com and search for Fast Talk podcast. Thanks for your support and of course, thank you for listening. Well, Tracy, welcome to the show. We’re really excited to have you here. This is a unique episode for us. We haven’t talked about social media to the point that I did my usual go look at the research and went, “Wait a minute, there’s no research. What do I do?”
Grant Holicky 02:47
You’re solidly out of your depth.
Trevor Connor 02:49
So I invited Grant because he has actually studied this. So we’re here with a big group of us. We have Grant Holicky joining us and Emma-Kate, great to have you on the show again.
Trevor Connor 03:02
So Emma-Kate, what are we talking about today?
Well, Tracy Markle, tell us a little bit about your work, because we’re talking about the impact of digital media on the modern athlete because I know during the course of your work, this is something that’s kind of crossed your path. And we had a very interesting conversation – this all started with a very interesting conversation probably a few months ago now – when you were telling me about your research and how it relates to the athletic community. So do you want to yeah, just give us the sort of high level picture of what that research is and what your work involves?
Tracy Markle 03:31
Sure. I really appreciate being here today, thank you so much. I find this topic really interesting. So I’ve been studying, I have a team of researchers, and I also provide treatment to people who struggle with digital media overuse issues, including social media. And what we’re finding through our work is we’re seeing this spread out into many different areas of performance, not only in the classroom, or in the workplace, or relationships, but athletes. And that’s a new emerging area of interest and research for us.
What Impact Digital Media is Having on the Modern Athlete
So today, we’re going to be diving into the question, really, of what impact is digital media having on the modern athlete? And I know Grant, that’s something you’ve got an area of interesting into right?
Grant Holicky 04:17
Yeah, I think as a coach, and then when somebody has a sports psychology degree, the impact of every aspect of the athlete’s life is going to impact performance. And as much of a piece as this is becoming for so many athletes, written into their contract with their teams. The expectation’s to get into race series, that you have to have an active presence on social media. And I’ve been through it with some of my athletes, like “Oh, hey, remember, you gotta post today.” And then you have the other side of that coin, which is, “Hey, put down your phone, we gotta go race,” and the ones that aren’t heavily involved are getting pulled hard into it. And those who are already heavily involved are getting rewarded for it and rewarded in quotes. Perhaps we should say, for their use. And so it really creates an interesting dynamic for their actual race performance.
Yeah, it’s really interesting because you know, you go back – rewind maybe five or eight years or so – and social media in terms of pro athletes, elite athletes, those athletes who are in a position to potentially get a sponsorship contract, social media was very rarely part of your contract or even a consideration. Whereas nowadays, it’s a very real part of the biggest brands or even any brand is really looking at an athlete with a view to their performance on the race course, as well as their performance as an influencer and their branding and that kind of thing. So which again, plays into this, all weaves into and folds into for some athletes, I think it’s becoming as big a consideration as their training and recovery.
Grant Holicky 05:44
If not bigger, right? And just a quick point, on that note, five years ago, eight years ago, social media was an opportunity. If you had a nice social media presence, maybe you had an opportunity to get a name for yourself or have a brand see you for the first time. Now it’s an expectation. Now it’s something you have to do. And that really changes things.
Trevor Connor 06:04
I think one of the best examples I’ve seen of this is Lachlan Morton, who is a very high level cyclist. He’s raced the Tour de France a few times, he was never a contender to win the Tour de France, but he was a very strong cyclist. And he could have continued that traditional career of “I’m going to be a good teammate, support guys who can potentially win the Tour de France and make a career out of this.” But he actually made a shift that I don’t think could have happened prior to the social media world of “I’m going to go out and do all this crazy adventure stuff. And I’m going to record it. I’m going to tell people about it. I’m going to put it out on social media.” So last year, instead of racing the tour, he rode the route of the tour ahead of the race, and was posting about it every day, and probably got more recognition probably got seen more by fans than he would have had he actually been racing in the tour. And his team fully got behind this because they said you’re actually getting us more eyeballs, more media coverage than if you had just done the traditional route on your team.
Grant Holicky 07:06
Yeah, it was pretty dramatic.
Trevor Connor 07:07
Tracy, do you want to give us a little bit of an insight into some of the research and give us an idea of actually what’s going on in our brains when we’re consuming digital media and social media?
Tracy Markle 07:17
Yeah, that’s very interesting. Well, I want to start by talking about a professional athlete named Jeff Kibosh, who is a professional mountain biker. And he recently wrote an editorial called “Can athletes be athletes anymore?” And I found it really interesting. And it’s connected to brain science, so I’ll get there in a second, but he highlighted that the expectation to have a certain amount of followers, a certain amount of posts, was extremely stressful – especially for athletes, who are introverts by nature. And he spoke about his own personality type as an introvert and that if he had entered the field today, would he have stayed? And I thought a lot about that because when we look at research and science, when you’re developing a research plan to look at a problem area like compulsion, that might be digital media overuse, social media overuse, chemical, what have you, we look at the Big 5 personality types. This is an area that’s researched often and without Jeff maybe realizing it, he was highlighting a really important factor that we see in research, that extraversion is a protective factor when it comes to compulsive behaviors. And when we look at science behind digital media use, especially social media, those who thrive in that environment are extroverts. Our athletes who are introverts, let’s say more of the individual sports, running, cycling, mountain biking are going to struggle a great deal more with that, because of the level of pressure and stress that’s associated with just the social aspect of it. And so I want to make note of that, because I found that really interesting, especially for coaches to be aware of who they’re working with, for sponsors to be aware whether or not that is a factor that they’re looking at, and where the strengths lie with that.
Effects of Social Media on the Brain
Trevor Connor 09:20
So like I said, this is not my area of expertise, but I read a book that I’m actually going to say is, I thought one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years. It’s called “The Shallows”. And the book had a huge impact on me. He starts in the introduction talking about how, on a Saturday, he sat down to read a book and really struggled to just read a book and thought back to when he was younger. Before the era of the internet and social media, he could sit all day and read a book cover to cover and he couldn’t do that anymore. And it got him thinking about what is the impact the internet and social media are having on us. And the short version of the book – at least what I got out of it is – this is literally changing our brains. And the reason the book is called “The Shallows” is because we’ve dramatically improved our ability to take in large amounts of information, but our ability to sit and think deeply about that information is something that we’re actually kind of losing. So it’s very interested in your feelings about this, and what effects you’ve seen of social media on the brain.
Tracy Markle 10:25
Absolutely. And he’s absolutely right, this has changed our brain. And when you’re talking about kids, teenagers, young adults, in particular, their brain is going through a lot of growth and development. We talk often about the prefrontal cortex, which is where the all important executive function cognitions lie; that’s decision making problem solving, impulse control, self regulation, it’s an ability to be able to manage your emotions well. And what we’re finding with the internet, in particular, is the level of multitasking that’s required when you’re in front of a screen. There’s constant push through notifications, there’s expectations, and above all, there’s the reward processing cycle that’s occurring. Which is really fascinating when you break it down. So to simplify it, when you’re on a device like social media, you’re anticipating rewards to occur. So when I talk about rewards, I’ll highlight one of the most powerful manipulative reward systems out there, which we call intermittent variable rewards. And that type of reward system is built into every type of device and application. And there’s intent behind that and they call it persuasive technology, persuasive design. So when these applications and devices were developed, there were behavioral psychologists involved who understood reward systems. And they made sure to develop these systems to keep us coming back for more, they literally changed the way we think, feel and act. So for young people, they attempt to engage in multitasking, which in all reality, – and many of us we attempt to do that when we’re in front of the screen – we’re not able to multitask. There’s a very small percentage of us who actually do a fairly decent job at it. But most of us, it’s shifting tasks. So when you shift from one to another, we find such as Dr. Paul Atchaley out of the University of Kansas – he’s a cognitive psychologist so he does a lot of research around this – that it can take up to 15 minutes to reorient to your primary task. And so what we find along the way is, people are not retaining information. Well, they’re not remembering what they’re reading, especially on a screen, very difficult to do. Because just by nature of the screen, and the Internet, we’re more distracted. Because we’re anticipating distractions to come across the screen, we’re anticipating somebody to post on our social media site, or to send us an email that we’ve been waiting for. So we’re constantly checking, we’re not remembering we’re more fatigued. And we have a really hard time with focus and concentration.
Grant Holicky 13:26
One of the biggest things that I see with this for athletes is where social media starts to fill in the gaps in their life too, right? So we’re always, we used to finish a task – talking about the difficulty of reorienting – we used to finish a task and sit down and maybe stare into the abyss for a little bit. And what that gives us is that transitional period between one task to another task. I read somewhere recently in a study of that we’re losing our ability to be bored. So people when they start to have nothing to do with their brain, they fill it by picking up their phone, and they fill it with social media. But that boredom is almost your body’s natural meditation, it’s a natural way to get in deep thought. Where do you get these great ideas? You get them in the shower, there’s nothing else going on in the shower, you can’t do it. I’ve started to ride without music, and you’re just sitting there staring on the road. “Oh my God, I gotta write this stuff down.” But then the problem comes in right, where you write it down and you write it down on your phone. And the second you pick up your phone, how do you not open Instagram? How do you not open Twitter? How do you not open to those things, particularly because of the reward system that you’re putting out there? So for me, I see this lack of ability to transition. So they’re carrying whatever they did from one thing into the workout, or they’re carrying whatever they just read on the Internet into their race. And there it becomes really, really hard to separate those pieces of the puzzle. Especially as we mentioned earlier, when people are expecting them to interact in that way. They’re supposed to post a story of their warm up, so of course, they’re not going to transition very well.
Trevor Connor 15:02
No, see, that’s what I want to ask about because I’ll tell you flat out, I am not a social media person.
Grant Holicky 15:07
Trevor Connor 15:08
I will get on it and post because I have to, but whatever that reward system is, doesn’t work for me. But I like to go deep into things. Like so for example, yesterday I read a study that I found absolutely fascinating. I probably spent four hours on the study I was reading it, was going to checking its references, following the different threads, it was really fascinating to me. When I get exposed, as you said to all those hits, all those social medias, all these things pinging me, it’s really stressful for me. But take that to the athlete context. My strength as an athlete was that ability to focus, I would put my heads down and when I’m racing, there is nothing else in my world, I am just racing. That’s what I’m focusing on. And I can’t remember who it was, but was actually talking to a coach who’s at the World Tour level. And he said, it’s becoming an issue where you have athletes, you know, in the past, you’d finish the stage of the Tour de France, it’s a long. You’ve got three weeks here; they’d get in the bus, they would do the recovery, they would focus on what they needed to do for the next day. So that’s not what happens anymore. They finish the stage and they immediately grab the phone, and they’re doing 45 minutes of social media. So that’s what I was interested in, how is this affecting athletes? And this is all for the better? Or is this hurting their performance?
Mental Health and Social Media
Tracy Markle 16:26
Well, I would say for a number of them, it’s hurting their performance. And also, there’s mental health factors that are emerging for athletes. There’s been a number of studies on different types of athletes in different sports such as soccer, tennis, swimming, boxing, and what they’re finding is just accessing social media 30 minutes before an event leads to problems with decreased race times, perceived fatigue, which is a problem area, because I think all of us can relate. I definitely can when I’m spending time in front of the screen, preparing a project, and I know I need to go out and do my workout and run. The first thought I have is, “I’m tired.”
Definitely. And I think with endurance sport, so much of it comes down to not just physiological performance, right, and how fit we are and all those physical things, but so much of it, especially the longer the event you’re doing, so much of it comes down to mental and emotional energy, and how topped off your emotional battery is. And if like you’re describing Grant, you’ve got an athlete that’s hopping from one workout to then jumping on Instagram to then jumping to the next task to then, like when do they ever really rest and digest? When do they kick on their parasympathetic nervous system?
Grant Holicky 17:41
They don’t and this is part of the equation, right? What you’re looking at is okay, we finished an event, Trevor you’re talking about getting on the bus and doing a post mortem, we want to see what we did well, what we did poorly. We can’t do that internally anymore, because we’re seeking gratification, or we’re seeking somebody to tell us how well we did on social media, or that it’s okay that we did poorly on social media. I can go out and post “Oh it was a terrible race. This went wrong, this one wrong, all this happened to me.” And 15 people are gonna come back and go, I feel so bad for you. And I’m getting that reward system, but that reward system is not going to help my performance in any way, shape, or form. So literally, the brain will not learn without acknowledging the mistake, and coming up with a new path for that mistake. There’s a lot of instances where jumping on social media doesn’t allow us to even acknowledge the mistake. And so moving forward, it’s going to become a really big struggle.
Trevor Connor 18:35
So I know I’m jumping ahead a little bit here, but when I asked you is this for the better you said, in many ways this is not. What do athletes need to do? How do we correct this?
Tracy Markle 18:45
That’s a really important question and I think it extends well beyond the athlete. I think they’re responding to what the environment is expecting of them. And so like we’re talking about those of us who are athletes in the room, including myself, I focused on my running, and I focus on my sport, my recovery. I would read books after a workout, I would spend time with friends having lunch, activities that are really good for us that help us with recovery. And I think athletes of today are dealing not only with this typical societal pressure of just being on your device, communicating through social media, which is something that kids are growing up with now. And that’s more of a normal way of communicating than face-to-face. And they’re struggling more with that face-to-face communication and having a voice as far as on a sports team or on the field of play. And coaches are noticing that. And I can go down a long list of areas of detriment that we’re seeing with athletes because of the device and social media expectation. And so I think for especially our developing athletes, we need coaches to be informed. We need them to understand the brain science behind it – that we’re right now just scratching the surface of – and the implications, especially for the developing brain, and how much that does interfere with their performance. But above all, the more fatigued they become, the more distracted they become, the less they’re going to perform well, and the earlier they’ll leave the sport. And we’re seeing that at a pretty high level, right now. People are leaving the sport at a younger and younger age than we’ve seen before. And many people out there – and the research is new it’s hard for me to quote that right now – but the impression is the ideas. And I happen to agree that screens, that social media, that smartphones have a lot to do with that. And so I encourage athletes to advocate for support around this, especially when they have an expectation from their sponsor, or a brand development or whatever it is that they’re asked to do. And that coaches are stepping in to helping them create a digital wellness plan, to set boundaries. There’s a time and place to use your device. And one area that we may want to spend some time on is sleep and the amount of time are young people are spending on devices at bedtime, and how much that impacts everything. And I think we all know that as athletes and professionals, and that that can have a major factor on our overall performance.
Screens and Your Sleep
Grant Holicky 21:24
So let’s tie these two things together and go play with sleep. You asked about when are they activating their parasympathetic nervous system and answered…they’re not. But in so many cases, sleep is so important for our body to recover and our body to start to shut down and go to those places. And we’re seeing athletes struggle more and more and more to go to bed at an appropriate time, when they know they need to get up at this certain time. It’d be one thing if we could shift that bedtime back for everybody till midnight, knowing that everybody could sleep till 8am. There’s some questions about whether that’s healthy in and of itself, but if they know they have to get up for a 6am practice, and they’re struggling to go to sleep because of this reward system that is set up on social media, it is drawing them to continue to scroll and scroll and scroll. So what can we do and what are some of the thoughts that coaches, parents, and even ourselves, how do we create some of the structure that says, “Alright, what do we do about sleep?” And what are the most important things to do in terms of our devices?
Tracy Markle 22:34
Well, it’s, I think it’s important to think of your bedroom as a place for rest and relaxation. And screens are very stimulating. And just by the mere nature of the way they’re developed, with the blue light that’s emitted from the screen, it inhibits melatonin from being released. And melatonin is really important to help us fall asleep. What I tell athletes in particular, anybody who’s a high performer, you need to put your devices away at least two hours before your bedtime before you plan to go to sleep. If you don’t, you’re going to have a really hard time putting the device down. And once you do, you’re going to have a hard time falling asleep, it’s going to take some time. And I think it comes down to education, first and foremost. And in the area that we live in Boulder, Colorado, there’s a lot of very curious, inquisitive parents seeking the information, wanting the information. And that’s something that I think is really important. But that has not extended beyond into the larger United States. I think we have a lot of parts of the United States who are still really questioning, how do we handle these issues? And one thing that I want to mention around the sleep deficit area is how much it’s connected to mental health issues. There’s a direct correlation between that, and depression, and anxiety, and also a lot of different physical issues. There’s fatigue, of course, which branches out into problems with performance, high blood pressure, and weight gain. And I think when you can educate athletes, “Okay, here’s the direct relationship between having your device in your bedroom, not going to sleep, and your performance,” I don’t know many athletes who would tell me, “I don’t want to listen to you.” I think every athlete that we talked to wants to perform better, even if it’s that 1% better. And what I’ll often say to them is, “What if you did put that device outside your bedroom, which is a much better place than in your bedroom, and you tried that for a week or two and your sleep improved. Do you think your performance would improve?” There’s a direct relationship there and not many athletes would tell you that they didn’t want to try it. Now, I will say one more thing – I have a lot to say on this topic as you can see – the younger kids, the developmental age, the juniors, they’re in a really critical stage as far as brain development. They have more dopamine receptors in their brain as teenagers than at any other time in their life. They’re craving stimulation, they’re craving these reward systems because it releases a great deal of dopamine. And that alone, floods their prefrontal cortex, so they have a hard time putting the device down all on their own. So they need the adults around them and help them create, like I said earlier, a digital wellness plan so they can learn how to do this in a different way.
Trevor Connor 25:39
That’s I was gonna say, I mean, this is somewhat addictive. What sort of success are you going to have saying to a kid, “It’s two hours before bed, put your phone down.”
And even as adults, it’s hard to do that. So for kids, it’s even harder.
How Coaches Can Be a Good Role Model for Athletes
Grant Holicky 25:50
It’s extraordinarily hard. But this is a point I wanted to make earlier. This is why I think the education for coaches is so important too, because we see so many athletes growing up, they’re not gonna listen to their parents. And I hate to say that I’m a parent, and it’s hard to know that my boys are gonna stop listening to me. But if they have a really good role model, and somebody that can say to them, “Hey listen, this isn’t just your dad saying, ‘It’s good for you.’ This is somebody that saying that this is going to increase your performance.” You get this other influence, that’s a positive influence in their life. There’s a study out there that talks about the influence that coaches have over kids, and they will rate their coaches as more important have an influence in their life than any other person in their life, including their parents. So the role that coaches have for kids and for adults is monumental. And we need to be thinking this through. And we need to be in a place that we’re helping set these boundaries, or at least helping provide the information that lets people make really good choices on their own. Because, as you said brilliantly, almost every athlete at a high level will make this choice. And especially if you empower them to make this choice and say, “This is something you can do right now and it’s free speed.”
Tracy Markle 27:06
Everything you said is extremely important. And I can even relate to this with my personal trainer, and somebody who helps me stay on track, like a coach. She often has to repeat herself many times to help me develop better habits. It might be as simple as, I didn’t eat enough before I went out for my workout and I felt fatigued. And she has to remind me of something basic like that, which makes me laugh to even think that I might need that reminder. And these young people, teenagers and young adults, need their coach to constantly remind them of these performance enhancing techniques, which includes putting your smartphone away before bedtime. Because of the draw of the screen, just the mere nature of the persuasive design, it’ll keep pulling them back in. But they can develop new habits around it – I see it every day and the work I do – but it takes a really structured wellness plan, digital wellness plan that everybody is referring to and staying on top of. And that I believe needs to be incorporated into everything that has to do with their performance as far as an athlete and the plans that they have there.
Trevor Connor 28:22
So I think this is a good segue. Let’s talk a little bit about the athlete-coach relationship. Has social media changed that relationship compared to the athlete coach relationship before social media? Grant is laughing.
Grant Holicky 28:36
Well, I think it has immensely and in many, many different ways. And one of the most simple ways is, there’s so much information.
Yes, that’s exactly what I was gonna say. Is it like you can Google like, back in the day, you know when I was a kid, my coach was like God, right? I would never even think to challenge my first swim coach, whereas kids nowadays be like, “Well, I can just ask Google that question.” Like, should I be doing this much volume? Should I be doing more high intensity?
Grant Holicky 29:03
And I think that becomes a really big issue. And it becomes a particular skill set that coaches need to have to be able to go, “Yes, that could work or yes that could work. Maybe we incorporate it or this is why we don’t do that with you individually.” But even just that simple ability to go out and question everything that’s going on, I think there’s a real benefit to that in coach-athlete relationships because athletes are empowered and they come to the table with information to that coach. So we have a relationship instead of a top-down demanding situation, which is better for all of their mental health and we could try it out study after study about how that is important. But I think the other element of that, of the coach-athlete relationship is – I’ll speak from the coach side – the pressure that it’s placing upon coaches. It’s really really interesting because they have to have their athletes to perform, and then they get to talk about their athletes performing, and then they’re going to get more athletes if their athletes are performing. So the the stakes for even just amateur cycling coaches goes up, because here’s a way to advertise about yourself. And as that stress and pressure and state goes up for a coach, they’re going to make choices that maybe aren’t the best for those athletes. And they’re under pressure themselves with the athlete will absorb and will understand that pressure. And they’ll feel it too. So I think there’s definitely some of that, and then just the mental health between the two of them. How are they interacting? Are they doing it in person? And how strong is that relationship itself? Is it just the digital body out there that sending a workout? Or is there a personal connection in which you feel supported as an athlete, and that the coach understands the things that the athletes are putting forward? And it’s amazing as a coach just quickly picking up the phone and going, “Hey, we got to talk. We just got to talk. It can’t just be words on the screen. I gotta hear the inflection in your voice.” I get to hear those things. I spent a career coach in swimming where I could walk on the pool deck every day and look at their eyes.
Yeah, right. That’s so powerful.
Grant Holicky 31:15
And I could watch that kid walk on deck and go, “Oh, they’re tired?” Right, we’re gonna modify their workout. “Why am I doing something different?” Because you’re wrecked, I can see it. Look at you. But you don’t see that in an athlete when everything’s done through training peaks, or through a digital platform. And it really is difficult. And so for a coach, I think coaches need to develop ways to have that interaction, even if it’s digitally, that they start to learn their athlete, they start to learn what those comments mean. That when they start belittling themselves, they’re tired. Or when they start to, you know, if they’re really praising themselves, that’s a good thing. How do we celebrate that? How do we get more of that? So it’s changing those relationships and how you have to learn about your individual athlete.
Yeah and it’s interesting, because I know digital platforms like Training Peaks have introduced those different measures to try to shortcut that. I don’t get to physically see my swimmer walk onto the pool deck and check out his or her posture, or see how like, I can definitely tell their mood is suffering, like a great indicator of fatigue. And I know they’ve got now like the smiley face or the neutral face or the or the frowny face, which is supposed to be like the athletes quick shortcut to say to my coach, “Hey, I’m tired.” But what’s even funnier about that is I think it was Alan Cousins who had tweeted recently about, “Oh, this drives me nuts. Like I’ve got an athlete who will put a smiley face on a workout and then description beneath it is ‘This workout sucked. I’m really tired. My husband didn’t do this last night, and I didn’t get any sleep, and blah, blah, blah. I should never have tried to do this high intensity stuff.'” And so it’s like, oh, look, even when we’ve got a digital platform that’s trying to shortcut some of those traditional Craft of Coaching methods, still doesn’t work. Right, because it’s not set up for that human interaction. Right. So it still comes down to humans need human interaction sometimes?
Mental Health and Human Connection
Tracy Markle 32:10
Well, and when you look at the mental health side, there’s something called limbic resonance. And that occurs when we’re in a close, in the same room ideally, same proximity, not behind the screen. It occurs when you’re in a relationship; a trusting relationship. One that you know, that person respects you and cares about you. And it’s a protective factor. So what happens with limbic resonance in the limbic system in our brain is when we’re in those kinds of relationships, it releases neuro chemicals, dopamine, and norepinephrine. And they’re both protectors against depression, low self-esteem, even suicidal ideation. And what we’re seeing – especially over the pandemic, when everybody went behind the screens – we’ve seen a major increase in mental health issues across all demographics, including elite, professional, all types of athletes. And so I realize we can’t always be in the same room together, but I think it’s important to recognize that when we’re not, we may see less of a connection. And all of that is tied to motivation as well. If we’re feeling disconnected from our coach, if we’re feeling disconnected from our athletes, and we’re not able to be with them nearly as much, we’re relying on the screen more, we’re potentially going to have a situation where people are less motivated. Because I think we all feel energized after human interaction when we’ve been behind screen for a period of time. We crave it.
Grant Holicky 34:40
So one of the things I really want to touch on is you talk about the depression piece and one of the things we all need to know as endurance coaches and athletes is that overtraining, one of the severe symptoms of overtraining is depression. And it can even occur amid overreaching which is something that many, many endurance coaches are going to actively seek, right? We actively seek overreaching, but there’s a change in our mental health even among that and admits that. And when we go over the edge into overtraining, we can lead down this very depressive path. And when that is exacerbated by the lack of human contact, or the lack of that person to rely on, and then it could be exacerbated even further by social media and some of the things that we’re experiencing, it’s very easy to get a negative feedback loop here. “I don’t feel good about myself, I’m not performing well. Therefore, I feel worse about myself. My coach is – excuse my language – up my ass about this. I need to do this I need to do that,” becomes very, very overwhelming, which in and of itself can be difficult, but then that may push people to screens even more and push people more into that usage, which is really going to lead down a tough haul.
Tracy Markle 35:54
Well, you’re bringing up a really important point. One of the main ways that people cope now with mental health issues, depression, even fatigue, and boredom, and burnout is going into the device. It’s really accessible, it’s easy to pick up, and it allows us to escape for a period of time from those worries and our stresses. And what happens is because of the amount of dopamine being released, when we’re on social media, or playing video games let’s say, what we’re doing is we’re just increasing our level of depression, and anxiety. So when athletes walk away from the screen as a way of coping, they’re going to find that they might feel more anxious and more depressed. And it creates this terrible cycle of “Okay, I’m gonna go back to the screen because I feel somehow better when I’m in front of it.” And that’s why I think when I meet with clients for the first time, one of the first things I want to do is provide education. This isn’t your fault. This doesn’t mean you have bad character, or you’re lazy. It all has to do with brain science and the way these devices and these applications are developed. And we’ve seen multiple research studies over the years – although we’re still in our infancy as far as this field – connecting strong correlation between too much time on the screen, and a multitude of mental health issues.
Ryan Kohler 37:16
Are you a student athlete that’s looking to up your game? Look no further. Hi, this is coach and physiologist Ryan Kohler at Rocky Mountain Devo and I have over 20 years of experience working with junior athletes. I specialize in a physiology based approach to training with a focus on finding improvements that can make the biggest impact on your end goal. I’d love to work with you. So check out more at rockymountaindevo.com.
Trevor Connor 37:42
So what impact is this having on Junior athletes? We said we’re gonna go here and Grant, you said this is… I’m looking at both of you. But I think it’s time to go there. Because they are obviously the ones that have grown up on social media; it is the biggest part of their life. You’re talking about all these negative effects on them how it is not just affecting them as individuals, but affecting them as athletes?
Junior Athletes and Social Media
Tracy Markle 38:05
Well, I think with our athletes that are in development, under the age of 20, we’re seeing that they’re dealing with a number of different issues. So social media is a minefield for them. Besides the persuasive design and what’s built into these to release dopamine and keep you coming back for more, they’re a highly traumatized group of people; the amount of traumatic events that are repeated constantly on social media, seeing video after video and a lot of this graphic – Instagram and some of the other sites like TikTok – depending on the algorithms that are built into the clicks. If you have an interest in a topic, it can take you down a rabbit hole into more problematic information. And algorithms are developed to really notice where you’re going. And in many respects, they know you better than you know yourself. They know what what that next step will be. And so a lot of these young people are exposed to information unlike those of us who are digital immigrants, where we grew up at a time before smart devices, which was, you know, the first one came out in 2007 with the iPhone. These kids are we refer to as “digital natives,” they’re growing up in this world. And so we’re seeing as a whole, especially with our athletes who are in development, they’re less resilient than they used to be. They’re not managing as well. And we blame social media exposure for that and the amount of negative news and content that’s on there. I’m not even at all touching on bullying, because there’s a high level of that occurring too, but mostly just the negative news.
Grant Holicky 39:47
Well, I think the resilience thing is an important piece because there’s some studies out there that talk about having to overcome your own traumatic events can lead to an increase resilience. But we’re not talking about our own traumatic events for these kids, they’re being projected upon other people’s traumatic events. And that is not going to help create resilience and in some ways, it creates a shrinking athlete, somebody that’s going to avoid. And as we talk about the success that social media makes athletes want to achieve, how do we define that success? How much of that can be unattainable? You know, when I grew up swimming, you would – I don’t want to sound like the old guy in the room – but you’d have to look up, you wait a month until the 20 magazine came out to see where you ranked, and then you saw it all. But now it’s instantaneous and it’s not even a ranking system. If I’m interested in swimming, I get bombarded with videos of people from swimming. And everybody only posts what they did when they won, right? And so their life must be so much easier. That setup is so much more successful. I’m in trouble. I’m not doing this well. And you referenced burnout and motivation earlier and this is tied directly with resilience. But the pieces of motivation and we can talk about, you know, Ryan and Deki and I bring it up all the time, autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Social media provides some of the relatedness because you see a whole lot of people doing what you do. But it diminishes most people’s feeling of competency, because they’re looking at everybody’s perfect life. And it takes away so much autonomy that is already in a tough place for kids. We don’t provide a lot of autonomy sometimes for kids, and we’re certainly not high horse, we’re certainly not creating the society anymore that lets them fall on their face and figure it out for themselves. We’re trying to guide them through this because it is a minefield, and we feel like we have to guide them through it. I have two young boys and my wife and I get in discussions all the time about like, how do we get them to want to do things on their own? But at the same time, you’re terrified to let them do things on your own because you as adults are bombarded with the same scary information that makes you think that that abduction around, it’s happening everywhere. “It’s everywhere. I gotta keep them as close as I can.” So it really influences it from all sides for these kids. It’s influencing their parents, it’s influencing in their coaches, it’s influencing their peers, and it’s madly influencing them.
It’s pretty interesting, we just published module 10 of the Craft of Coaching with Joe Friel, which is all about coaching Junior athletes. And there’s a wealth of research there that shows the importance of play at a young age. And structured training should, structured training is obviously part of that development of junior athlete, but it should only really come in once like 14, 15, 16. But prior to that, like this fundamental focus on play, and experience, and being outdoors and enjoying all of that.
Grant Holicky 42:48
So you brought up that social media provides some relatedness. But the question I have for you, Tracy is, is this a darker type of relatedness? I’m talking about kids here. You think about the way we used to relate is you’ve all played in the same playground, and you learned how to interact with one another. But there was a certain side of, these are the people I see every day. And we are going to interact and we are going to get to know one another and find a way to be friends. Hopefully it’s really easy, sometimes you have to struggle a little through it. It seems like on social media, relatedness is much more, how many likes do I get? Social media pulls that away, because it’s forcing coaches to try to keep up. It’s forcing parents to try to keep up. And I find myself well versed in this with a seven year old boy going, “Oh my God, he’s not really into any one sport yet. Oh no, I’ve got to get him going.” And then I sit there and go, “Oh geez, no you don’t. Let him do everything.” And I find very actively with my son, and with the kids that I coached – and I spent 30 years coaching swimming, youth swimming, – how do you create structures that let them play? And when you do, they will learn through the roof, their progression goes crazy, because they don’t even know they’re learning. But yet, when you create this overly structured environment, they feel pressure, they feel stress, and then you add the social media stress on top of that, and they’re really overwhelmed. And you watch athlete after athlete shut down, and just want to leave the sport because they struggle with their own worth. And they struggle with where they fit in this equation. And it’s just not worth it if I can’t win.
Tracy Markle 44:30
There’s a lot of pressure to get likes. I think that’s one of the feedback loops, right? And there was intent in building that into Facebook originally; it all has to do with persuasive psychology. And that 40 years ago, that was a man named, last name Caldwell, I believe, came up with persuasive psychology and one of the tenants of that was liking. So this has been around a long time and we know how to motivate people to come back for more. And so when you talk about social media, and for kids finding a way to connect on there, there’s a psychologist that I think is worth mentioning, Jean Twenge. And she specializes in social media research and she wrote a book called “iGen”. It’s really interesting to read and I recommend it. And she speaks about her studies on social media – and teenage girls in particular – because we tend to see, if you look at it from a gender perspective, more girls are driven onto social media to connect than males are. But that’s changing, especially with the expectations that are out there today. And she found that anybody who was on social media, more than an hour and a half a day started to have a decline in their mood: more depression, more anxiety, lower motivation. However, she also found that if you took social media away completely, that didn’t improve their mood either. There’s a sweet spot, right around an hour to an hour and a half a day, probably no more than two hours a day. But on average, our teens and young adults are spending five to seven hours a day on social media. So definitely not in the sweet spot. So I think it’s really important to understand that.
Grant Holicky 46:16
Well, there’s so much of an element of we are social creatures. So much of our evolution has evolved to be around other people, to want to help the other people that are around us for all of those things. Social media creates this feeling of that social network, but yet you’re all on your own and you’re continually on your own. And there’s research upon research that shows that we will perform, we will survive, we will resile, we will do all those things better for others than we will for ourselves. But when that circle gets drawn closer and closer into ourselves and it’s only about us, motivation gets really, really hard. There’s nothing else that we’re living for or doing for or working for. And this has no real research behind it, it’s anecdotal, but it’s what I feel as those kids crave, and adults, crave that social interaction that we all need digitally, they also isolate themselves. And when they isolate themselves, it becomes really difficult for motivation.
Trevor Connor 47:18
So bringing this back to sport, you brought up there seems to be a drop in resilience. Now again, I’m not the social media expert here. But just listening to what everybody’s been saying here, I have this concern that social media is all about that quick hit, the quick reward. And it sounds like people struggle when they don’t get that and that can cause a lot of depression. Now let’s bring that to sport, anybody who’s been successful in sport will tell you, you have a long period of time of not a lot of success. A whole lot of failure that you have to kind of push through while you figure the sport out and get to that point where you can be successful. Is social media setting up these kids to not be able to basically handle that patience? Not be able to go, “I’m gonna go and keep getting beat up in the swimming pool or out for runs, and not perform for a bit and races and be okay with that.” When they’re going, “I’m not getting my quick hit and it might be a year or two before I get that.”
Tracy Markle 48:17
Absolutely. I think what we see with that is an expectation from social media. And I also want to bring another digital media as well. It’s not only social media, it’s information seeking, it’s playing video games, you name it. There’s a lot of different domains that we’re looking at that are problematic for kids. And because the reward processing system is so high when you’re on this type of technology, and there’s a lot of immediate gratification and immediate rewards, there’s a conflict between immediate rewards and delayed gratification. And we all know with sport, delayed gratification is really, really important to tolerate. And that “I know I have to endure this. I know I have to put my time and I have to find ways to improve in order to achieve my goals.” The hard part about adolescence is their executive functioning, the prefrontal part of their brain.
Grant Holicky 49:16
They don’t have that yet anyway.
Tracy Markle 49:18
Right, exactly. Their prefrontal cortex is in full development. And so the core of executive functioning is goal setting and achievement. And then you throw in the social media application – we haven’t even mentioned the smartphone device which is the avenue for all and that’s highly rewarding as well – and that interferes in their ability to even set and know how to work towards goals. And that’s why the adults come into play, the coaches and helping them set up structure and awareness around that. I would argue mid 20s.
Grant Holicky 49:53
Well you really see it now in the growth of the hack. Everybody wants to know what the hack is. What’s the shortcut? What’s the easiest way to get there? And so I’ve said this before on this show, and others, it’s the Gatorade commercial, right? The Gatorade commercial shows these dramatic events that the athlete is doing, sweating all over themselves. So the Gatorade commercial for a successful athlete would be the most boring thing you’ve ever watched in your life. The training montage would be the same thing over and over and over and over again. So that shortcut isn’t there. And we seek it because of that gratification. We’ve been taught that there are shortcuts, we can get those shortcuts. If you just do this, and you do this, you get that shortcut. But it takes a lot of work. And I love that you keep bringing up the prefrontal cortex and the development of young athletes. We see this and we should be educating youth coaches about how important these things are because sport can – it doesn’t by its nature – this is the great sport myth. There’s a wonderful paper out there about the great sport myth, that sport will just instill these values in people, it just happens because you’re in sport. It happens if you do sport the right way, which means goal setting, and attainment, and what’s the path and the process based goals and all those pieces that go along with it? Young males, prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until fully until 23, 24 and it’s something that leap.
Tracy Markle 51:26
Upper 20s, absolutely.
Grant Holicky 51:27
I do think that’s a really important element in coaching young men – and this is true of young women, too, they’re a little bit ahead of the curve – but understanding that difference between the two genders and the individual athlete themselves. Some males will develop that very, very quickly. Some will develop it like Trevor at 52, 53, we’ll see. But that
Trevor Connor 51:53
is not looking good right now, possibly.
Grant Holicky 51:57
But those things are really important. And some of our devices and just digital media in general, really can interrupt that.
Tracy Markle 52:06
It can delay the development if you as a child receive a smart device, too young, or you’re able to play a lot of video games on Xbox or computers. And there’s a number of hours spent doing that, what we find is it can delay the development of the prefrontal cortex, just like if you’re abusing substances like pot, alcohol before the age of 15. That’s a critical cutoff point that if you are overusing before that age, you have a higher risk of developing an addiction as you move into your older years. And it can slow down the development of the prefrontal cortex, which is, as you said, I like to say a lot because I think it’s a really important piece to drive home. And it’s an underpinning of everything and to understand these athletes and to help them understand themselves.
Trevor Connor 52:56
So I guess what I want to do is get into the practical and I’m not sure there’s a simple answer this I just I’m hearing all this about social media on the reward side. But I also think about the the flip side that you know, I’m one of those people who’s not in the social media, I read that that book the shallows and went, my whole job is thinking deeply. So I don’t want that change in my brain. I’m going to avoid that social media. But I’ll admit, I have a hard time functioning in the current world because it is hit hit, hit, hit hit. And that actually stresses me out. Because it’s too many stimuli at once where I want to be going, I’ll take this stimuli and think about it, I’ll take that stimuli and think about it. And you can’t do that in this world. Seems like there’s kind of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So where’s the balance? How can somebody find that balance between the person who spent in seven hours on social media, and the person like me who can spend eight hours reading one research study and bore the heck out of everybody around them?
Tracy Markle 53:54
Well, we all are capable of developing new habits. And even you you can definitely
Trevor Connor 54:02
still waiting for the frontal cortex to develop and then all over the new habits.
Tracy Markle 54:07
It’ll help you achieve those goals for sure. Well, and habit development is creating new neural pathways. And so if you did practice, and you spent time on social media and you understood it, you might be able to tolerate it better and cope with it. And I think that’s what’s different about our digital natives, kids just growing up with this, it’s the way their brain developed. It’s habit development. So they cope with it better, they tolerate it. It doesn’t mean it’s better for them overall, emotionally in our mental health, but I think anybody can develop new habit around it. And I think it’s creating tension and it’s all about intentional use. And that’s what I talked to my clients about is, okay, you get on social media, you play video games, it’s not that those are bad in it of themselves. How can you create a plan around intentional use versus doing it as a way to just avoid and escape? Because it’s amazing, I don’t think there’s anything like it out there to avoid and escape. And so being able to step back and sit down and have a really thoughtful discussion about how do I want this to look in my life?
We’ve mentioned some good books during the course of the show, I’m just gonna throw one more out there that I read recently, which is “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. I just thought of it as you were mentioning your, you know, being overstimulated Trevor, because we do live in a world full of notifications. And I think I reached a point fairly recently, where it was like, Do you want to be at the mercy of them? Or do you, you know, are you going to be the passenger on the bus, or you’re going to be the driver? And it was the kind of coincided with reading this book and he..
Trevor Connor 55:39
Or get run over by the bus.
In this book, he talks about switching off all notifications. And if you want to have that deep focus, if you want to have that deep work, like how do we advance as humans? How do we make progress in our careers or in our chosen field in our sport in our training? You do have to power down those notifications and silence them so that you can go do four hours uninterrupted work without somebody pinging you on Slack and Teams and email and all the things and I think that relates to athletes that relates to anybody in a professional setting, I think so
Creating Good Habits
Grant Holicky 56:10
We talk so much about flow, you know, this idea of getting into flow, and athletes talk about the zone. I don’t get into flow anymore as an athlete as easily as I do when I’m working. If I am writing programs, I know exactly the scenario that I can do it in. And it’s headphones on – it doesn’t actually matter if there’s music playing or not – it just creates a little bubble around myself, right? And the phone goes elsewhere. And even if I’m doing it with the phone there, the only thing that’s on for notification pin point is the text because I still have my coach, and I have to get back to people quickly if there’s something going on. But that, I know how to get myself into that spot. And so how do we teach people to do some of these things that facilitate some of that? And for me, I bring it up all the time, I think transitions are crucial. How do you move from one part of your life to the next point of your life with intention? And say okay, so and we can talk about it as boundaries too.m We’re going to put the phone down when we do this or we’re going to do that. And we can create very habitual behavior out of this that can benefit us, the same way that the habitual behavior can hurt us. So how do we create those habits and that routine that says, “I’m sitting down to do this, I’m going to close off all of those things. I’m going into my bedroom, I’m going to set my phone here, so I can’t see it, I can’t hear it, I can’t whatever. I use my phone as my alarm, so it unfortunately is in my bedroom, but it’s underneath my bed in a drawer. So I can’t see the light. I can’t see any of those things. And I silence notifications on my watch.” All of those pieces are me setting boundaries to protect myself, understanding that I’m going to struggle if I don’t.
Tracy Markle 57:59
Well, and I want to just mention – and I really believe this – if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen.
Tracy Markle 58:06
And that’s for all of us. And I think being mindful about how we want our day to look, especially with device and applications. And how much time do I want to spend mind wandering, which is that time in the shower, which is walking in nature, having the opportunity to let the creative juices flow, and to also just let your brain power down for a period of time, which helps with recovery and also just storing information, which will really help with learning. So for me, it’s back to that intentional piece of creating your plan for the week. And not everybody’s good at that and need support needs direction to sit down and do that. But once again, I believe everyone can create these habits. You just have to have somebody around to help guide that. Whether that is the coach, a parent, an executive function coach, whoever it is to help you learn how to build that into your daily routine, will help improve their ability to cope and manage their screen time.
Grant Holicky 59:11
And the more that we can do that proactively, the better off we’re going to be and not having to solve a problem that’s created itself. How do we teach these things early so that we can catch ourselves or catch the people in our lives that are important to us to go, “Hey, we might be a little over the edge here.” And I brought my kids up a couple times in this, but it’s interesting to watch even the media they consume now. Like you get a kid show, they’re very short, and they automatically just run. So there’s no beginning and there’s no end. We’d have Friday Movie Night – we’re in the middle of Star Wars with our kids right now- but we watch a movie. There’s a start and there’s a finish and everybody knows when it’s over. But if we put on one of those shows, it just runs and parents have a really hard time stepping in and going, “Okay it’s time to be done,” and you watch the reaction out of the kids, it’s monumental. They throw fits, because they don’t have a defined ending period. So coming back to that idea of boundaries, so taking that lesson and expanding to every age, when do I do this? When do I do it with intent? When do I get off it with intent? And when do I move to my next thing with intent?
It’s funny you say that because my nephews, I’ve got an eight year old nephew and a six year old nephew, and my sister sets, as a lot of parents do, with a Nintendo Switch, she sets a timer so she doesn’t have to have that conversation. It’s just boom, powers down. 30 minutes, boom. And my youngest nephew, Joe he’s hilarious. That thing will power down, and he’ll go to the back of it and he is trying to find out how to shortcut the system. And he is looking around, and he’s like, “Oh, come on mom,” you know? And obviously, it never works, but we all I think in some ways, we all need to have that like, auto off.
Grant Holicky 1:00:53
Yep. And this is the planning, this is the planning. Plan your day, plan your usage, plan those things, and then commit to it. Get the streak going of committing to that.
Trevor Connor 1:01:03
So continuing this conversation with this – I love this idea of planning – going back to the resilience of athletes. So talking about helping athletes hit their their peak performance. I can tell you up until very recently, I was still jumping into the the pro and category one bike races. And I’ve seen in the younger generation, that loss of resilience. They just, I hate to say it, they aren’t as tough as they used to be. How in this age of social media do we bring that back? How do we help with that more, for lack of better word, that more positive psychology to give them that resilience, to give them that toughness?
Tracy Markle 1:01:45
I think it’s really challenging because the young adults of today are dealing with more pressures and stressors than we’ve ever seen, especially on the heels of the pandemic, just the number of mental health disorders have skyrocketed. And that crosses all demographics, like I mentioned earlier, and including high performing athletes that we often will put on a pedestal is they’re untouchable as far as mental health issues, when in all reality, that’s not the case. They’re also dealing with that. And I think that’s one thing to recognize and it’s really important. And if they’re struggling with mental health, because of the war in Ukraine, or the mass shooting that just happened at one state over, which is rinse and repeat. We’re seeing these new cycles over and over. And these young people are seeing this, and they’re becoming desensitized to it. And when you ask them, “Hey, does that bother you to see that?” “No, it’s not a big deal,” when in all reality, when you really sit down and start talking to them about it, they’re overwhelmed. That’s the word I hear the most. “I’m overwhelmed, I’m anxious. I don’t know why.” And we have to bring it back to social media and the amount of news that they’re receiving on there, or whatever the posts are. The information is, is this really promoting your well being? Is this helping you cope? And that’s where it comes back to that time to be able to put the device down, walk away from it. And we have to help them carve that out and understand the implications on their resilience when they’re exposed to that over and over and over.
Grant Holicky 1:03:26
And I think we have to understand exactly what you’re saying that they’re desensitized to it. They don’t even know unless you can help them dig a little bit deeper, right? I remember vividly when 911 happened. And my father’s a social worker and I was dealing with trying to help my swimmers through this. And one of the first things he said was, “Encouraged them to limit the time they spend watching the news and the information about that, because it’s easy to get inundated and pulled in. And it will affect their mood because they will absorb that mood from the national feeling.” And I think what we see is that that’s really hard to limit anymore for every age, right? It’s all over the place; we’re inundated with it. And it may be less about our ability to be resilient. It may be more about our feeling of hope, that I have a shot. I mean, you get so desensitized and so inundated with this kind of crappy information that I think a lot of people are very quick now to go, “It’s not going to work for me. This is not happening. Oh, well.” And it is hard to be tough. And we have to craft ways to allow these kids to see that they can work through this, ways to allow adults to see how they can work through this and they’re going to need help. They’re going to need support. And I think coaches, parents, professionals, this is where you can find so much of that help to work through.
So part of the problem of being human is that we are at the mercy of our own brains, right? And so we know all of this, and we’ve just sat here and had this great discussion. But we’re also fallible, we can also consume too much social media, we can also know that we shouldn’t, but an hour before bed or 30 minutes before bed, I might still be scrolling Instagram, knowing that you shouldn’t be. So Tracy, I know you’ve got some really interesting sort of practical “how to” like a checklist. Kind of like a self assessment that people can do in order to sort of get a bit of a read on where they are at with their own digital media consumption, right?
Tracy Markle 1:05:30
Absolutely. I think it’s important for all of us to, at times, do our own self checks. And something as simple as reviewing 10 questions that have to do with social media use and how it impacts you is really important. And so I’ll make sure that that’s information provided to you so that people listening in can access that.
We’ll include an article on the Fast Talk website, and then there’ll be a link in the show notes for this show, for this episode, so that people can go check that out and, and find out for themselves where they’re at with their scrolling…Doom scrolling. Are you a doom scroller Grant?
Grant Holicky 1:06:07
No, not particularly. When I find myself doing it, I tend to chuck the phone across the room. Get it away from me as quickly as possible. Yeah, it is hard though, now that you find yourself in a place where I will get my news from Twitter. Or at least get my ping from Twitter of, “Oh, crap, something happened. Now I go to a credible news source and figure it out.” I think a lot of people don’t make that second step and they just stay there. And that’s where that Doom scrolling comes, right?
Yeah. Well, fun fact, like having worked in endurance sports media for a few years now, seeing trends especially on how endurance athletes consume social content and weekly patterns. And a Sunday afternoon is typically when a lot of endurance athletes, there’s a huge spike in social consumption because everybody’s done their long ride, their long run, they’re on the couch in the NormaTec boots and they’re just scrolling away. Yep so there you go, there’s some free info for you. Free info.
Grant Holicky 1:07:04
I’ll post then from now on. “Get off your phones.”
Rob Pickels 1:07:10
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Trevor Connor 1:07:33
All right, well it’s that time in the episode. Tracy, you are new to our show, so we always finish with one minute take homes, which is everybody has one minute to give what they think is the most salient or most important point for the listeners to take out of this episode. So Tracy, if you need a minute to think about it, otherwise, we will start with you.
Tracy Markle 1:07:56
Sure, mostly I would say that we’re all human and this is a struggle for everybody. And it’s even for somebody like me where I spend a lot of time researching and studying this, I’m probably more aware than most people about the implications. And I myself still have a hard time remembering to set the device down and walk it away, or turn off my push through notifications and silence those. And so just remember that this isn’t about you being a bad person or having poor character. This is a struggle for everybody. And to have compassion and understanding of that.
Grant Holicky 1:08:29
I think when it comes to the athlete, it’s important always to understand how individual each person is and what this may trigger in you. And that ability to be objective with yourself, or maybe find those people in your lives that can help you with that objectivity. To take a look at your usage, and what you’re doing, and really understand if it’s benefiting you or hindering you. And then making a choice and a plan. Trevor, I know how much you love a plan. Create that plan of how you move forward to enhance your life, your relationships, and then your sport.
Yeah I think there’s a lot to be said there. My take home will be very similar to Tracy in that we are all at the mercy of our brains. And I have a post-it note on my fridge that says, “Our brains work for us, they are not on master.” And I think that just loops back to what you were saying about, even you as a professional in this space, you can still fall victim to being sucked in. So yeah, having a plan and doing your very best to stick to it and being compassionate with yourself, maybe if you don’t always.
Trevor Connor 1:09:35
Well, I am getting to that age and I’m very excited about where I can sit on the porch with a shotgun and complain about some kids. So I probably come at this with a slightly different perspective of the guy that all those pings kind of stress me out. What I got out of this is actually, we’ve kind of opened a Pandora’s box for better or for worse, as you said it’s they weren’t happy when they spent a ton of time on social media, but they weren’t happy when they were off of it. So it’s something that we need to live with. And I hope over time, we’re really going to find the ways to use it well, and start reducing the ways that it hurts us. The only thought that I have, being less experienced, is everybody talks about joking about actually getting to the bottom of Netflix, because it always scrolls. Social media is the same thing. There’s always one more thing to comment on, there’s always one more post, there’s always another thing. And that can suck up your life. And I think all of you are talking about this have put it down, set your goals focus on the things that you want to improve and make a difference of in your life. And social media. If you spend too much time on it, it might give you those quick hits, but it’s going to take away those long term things that are truly the things you’re gonna value in your life. That was another episode of Fast Talk, subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review the thoughts and opinions expressed in fast talker those of the individual as always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories that fasttalklabs.com/join. Become a part of our education coaching community. For Tracy Markle, Grant Holicky and Emma-Kate Lidbury, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.