Say what you will about how the internet and social media are shaping our culture, one thing that cannot be disputed is how they connect us to people, ideas and perspectives we otherwise may never encounter in our everyday lives. The power of anonymity in online forums grants many individuals the courage to share their most intimate stories and opinions without fear of judgment or social repercussions. While some thoughts are better left unshared, those struggling with health-related issues considered taboo or shrouded in negative stigma have found immense support and relief in these online communities. One such condition that has inspired thousands of men to participate online is low testosterone.
On the popular user-generated content website Reddit, which functions much like a virtual bulletin board system, users from around the globe share content in the form of text posts, links and images on just about any topic you can imagine. Any user can join in on the discussion, and “up” or “down” votes allow users to dictate what content is most relevant or worthy of interest. The site’s content is categorized by topics, or subreddits, so users can join and participate in communities that appeal to them the most.
Low testosterone, or “Low T”, is a health condition that often goes undiagnosed or untreated; either because men are too ashamed to talk about their symptoms or doctors are failing to recognize the signs. Not surprisingly, the challenge of finding adequate care and support for low T in the healthcare system has driven thousands of men to sites like Reddit to find others with their shared experience. In subreddits such as r/testosterone and r/everymanshouldknow, men living with low T have taken their medical matters into their own hands to share information, ask questions and recommend solutions to others who are struggling.
The Power of Online Connections
While most of us know that self-diagnosis for health concerns on the internet isn’t recommended — even the most benign symptoms entered on WebMD somehow always point to cancer — online communities built by individuals who share your specific health issues can be immensely beneficial and educational. Especially if your illness isn’t fully understood or easily diagnosed by health care professionals. In a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NLM NIH) titled “Social Connection and Online Engagement: Insights From Interviews With Users of a Mental Health Online Forum”, researchers have found online support to be an essential tool for the health and well-being of those with mental illness.
What are the benefits of baring your soul online to strangers? The findings of this study suggest that having online peer support provides an essential ongoing role in establishing social connection for those with a lived experience of mental health concerns, especially for those who live in rural or remote areas of the country. Online communities can offer a way for people to establish their own understanding of recovery by reflecting on the recovery experiences and support shared by others, as well as providing support to their peers themselves.
The participants of this study used online forums to find social connections and empathy that was lacking in their day-to-day lives. In these forums, people could not only find information for answers they weren’t getting from their doctors but also provide practical and personal advice for those going through similar experiences. Health conditions such as mental illness or low testosterone (which is often accompanied by symptoms of depression or anxiety) can be isolating when you feel as though no one shares or understands your experience. With sites like Reddit, you can find the emotional support your life may be lacking as well as advice to alleviate symptoms, get help and improve your sense of well-being.
What Wisdom is Being Shared?
On the popular subreddit r/everymanshouldknow, which boasts 347 thousand presumably male followers, men share knowledge and advice that falls under the group’s description “You know that thing your Dad was supposed to teach you but never did?”. Discussions range from information on traditional male things like how to tie a tie correctly or jumpstart a dead car battery. Still, the group also has a few popular threads dedicated to the topic of low T.
The acronym EMSK (every man should know) prefaces each discussion thread, followed by the topic the poster believes men should know. One such discussion, “EMSK the symptoms of low testosterone”, a user shared an article from Medical News Today that lists 12 of the most common symptoms that indicate low T. The top upvoted comment on the thread offers some practical advice to men reading the article who may have concerns:
“As a doctor, can I just clarify that the symptoms for the most part are very generic and could be due to a number of differential diagnoses. The vast majority of cases will be due to psychological problems such as burnout or major depression. When there is an organic cause, things like thyroid disease are much more common. If you feel unwell or not your normal self, go to your doctor who can do the right evaluation and tests.”
While we cannot verify this user’s medical background, they offer sound advice for other users to get their symptoms checked out before jumping to conclusions or rushing to find treatment. Another user who did seek medical help shares his experience:
“I had low T. I was scared sh**less to talk to my doctor. When I finally did it was really fu**ing easy. They see this all the time. They know what you’re going through. They get it. When you’re done talking to the doctor you’re going to feel great, like you have gotten something off your chest. Don’t let [low testosterone] be a reason not to seek help.”
By sharing the relief this individual experienced in talking to his doctor about Low T and encouraging others to do the same, this man helps to normalize the condition and addresses overcoming the fear that surrounds low T to get treatment.
Take the Low T Conversation Offline with Body Symmetry
Finding a supportive community of men who struggle with Low T can play an integral role in coping with your condition and improving your overall well-being. However, as many Reddit users point out, online medical advice is not a replacement for getting evaluated by a qualified medical professional. If you are ready to step away from online anonymity and find out more about low T and your treatment options, contact Body Symmetry MD today at 833-789-2639 to schedule your in-person consultation.