Self-help might help you, but it also help systems of injustice.
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Lately, my TikTok feed has been inundated with videos on self-improvement. These aren’t your typical “get more sleep” tips, but rather delve into biohacking – a method that aims to optimize health and enhance various facets of life.

This culture of biohacking often revolves around a figure named Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and esteemed professor at Stanford School of Medicine. Despite numerous attempts, I failed to secure an interview with him. Huberman has gained prominence for his expertise in brain development, function, and neural plasticity, receiving accolades as a fellow of both the McKnight Foundation and Pew Foundation. Beyond his academic pursuits, he’s involved with Momentous, a sports and nutrition company, and markets a line of branded dietary supplements. While the success of his supplement line remains somewhat ambiguous, a set of five bottles could set you back nearly $200.

Don’t fall for the productivity aesthetic. It’s a scam.

On his podcast, Huberman outlines an elaborate daily routine comprising yoga Nidra, exposure to sunlight, cold showers, and a meticulously timed coffee intake. He abstains from smoking and drinking, adheres to intermittent fasting, engages in strength training, supplements, and microdoses with testosterone, and concludes his day with a specific sleep cocktail. All of this seems to contribute to his apparent good health and likely financial well-being, as his advice, deeply rooted in science, extends to marketing supplements.

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Huberman has cultivated a dedicated following on social media, with some enthusiasts affectionately adopting the title of “Huberman Husbands,” a term coined by Sierra Campbell, a TikTok creator who bonded with her spouse over biohacking and Huberman’s podcast.

“I don’t know which is worse, having an Almond Mom or a Huberman Husband,” Campbell quipped in a lighthearted video. “But the case for the Huberman Husband being worse is not only do I have to live with him my whole life, but I’m also going to live forever.”

While the Huberman Husbands phenomenon has resonated with a significant portion of the biohacking community, Huberman isn’t the sole advocate of self-optimization. Interestingly, many of his ardent followers appear fairly grounded.

“I see the humor in the trend,” remarked Heather Mao, a TikTok creator and fitness enthusiast who embraces Huberman’s advice. “I see the exaggeration in the entire ‘Huberman Husband’ trend, and I see how people go to extremes with it.”

However, she also appreciates the wealth of well-researched information presented by Huberman, emphasizing that much of his biohacking guidance is free and adaptable for individual needs, not necessarily exorbitant or time-consuming.

A common theme prevalent in the world of self-optimization is the integration of simple, age-old practices like healthy eating, exercise, journaling, and meditation – activities that are not only beneficial but also affordable and time-effective.

Both Mao and Campbell view these practices with lightheartedness, experimenting with recommendations and discussing their experiences with friends, using it as a means to connect.

“It’s more enjoyable when it’s accessible to everybody and not hyper-individualistic,” Campbell noted.

However, it’s crucial to question why there’s a compelling need to enhance and optimize ourselves within a system rife with political and social injustices, without addressing and rectifying these systemic inequalities. Focusing solely on personal betterment, while disregarding the disparities ingrained in society, can be counterproductive. It steers attention away from communal welfare, aligning more with a capitalist interpretation of productivity than with genuine community-centric growth.

A deeper inspection reveals that some commonly advocated biohacks, such as starting the day with sun exposure, may not be feasible for many individuals, especially those with inflexible work hours or residing in regions with minimal sunlight. Additionally, the expense associated with maintaining a regimen of supplements could be redirected to basic nutritional sources if more equitable access to food weren’t already an issue in various communities. This emphasizes the persisting wealth gap, which demands addressing more than just individual optimization.

In A Companion to Marx’s Capital by David Harvey, the notion of time as a societal construct molded to fit the workweek is highlighted, illustrating that trends emphasizing self-optimization predominantly serve to enhance an individual’s potential as a consumer and worker within a capitalist framework.

While not all biohacking endeavors center solely on productivity, they undeniably lack a communal focus. Alice Cappelle, in a poignant YouTube essay, stresses the importance of directing self-help and self-optimization efforts toward community engagement, a vital aspect often overlooked in the pursuit of personal betterment.

“What if venting frustration and discussing social injustices constituted self-help? What if addressing broader causes and the injustices faced by others became the true essence of self-help?” she proposed. “In the past year, I’ve discovered that my personal growth and happiness have flourished not by solely focusing on my internal struggles, but by placing importance on larger issues and the injustices faced by others. For me, that is the essence of self-help.”

These sentiments resonate deeply.

Topics Instagram, TikTok

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Christianna Silva
Senior Culture Reporter

Christianna Silva is a Senior Culture Reporter at Mashable. They write about tech and digital culture, with a focus on Facebook and Instagram. Before joining Mashable, they worked as an editor at NPR and MTV News, a reporter at Teen Vogue and VICE News, and as a stablehand at a mini-horse farm. You can follow them on Twitter @christianna_j.


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