DEAR HARRIETTE: I was visiting with a good friend recently and noticed as he was looking at his phone that he had been watching ear wax removal videos. I asked him about it because it looked like he had a lot of these videos open. It seemed weird and kind of gross to me, and I really couldn’t figure out why this seemingly normal guy would be into something so nasty.

My friend got defensive when I asked him about it, and he told me that the videos are weirdly fun to watch. He got into it during the pandemic. He said he was looking at a different random video when one of the earwax ones popped up. One led to another, and he got hooked. I thought he was being particularly odd when he told me, but when I looked it up, I saw that there are many of them with huge numbers of views. This creeps me out. I feel like my friend has become somebody I don’t even know. How can I get him to separate from this nasty stuff? — Addicted to Earwax Videos

DEAR ADDICTED TO EAR WAX VIDEOS: According to TikTok, earwax videos have received more than 1.4 billion views since just 2020. It clearly is a trend that your friend has hit upon. While it seems gross to you, my research suggests that the “big reveal” of a clean ear at the end creates a level of satisfaction in some viewers after watching these things.

Rather than rejecting your friend or judging him for his choices, just move on. You do not have to think about or talk about this compulsion of his. It is not something that he will likely do when in your company. He probably got obsessed with it when he couldn’t go out, and a social media algorithm then directed him to more and more of these videos.

By the way, the same thing happens these days no matter what your area of interest is. Whatever you look at, the algorithm will show you more ad nauseam. The way out is to put down your device and go out and live your life. Invite your friend to hang out with you. Stepping away from the electronics is a healthy alternative for everyone!

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been in the same friend group for two years, and we are all in a group chat. Lately though, the environment has become super toxic. It forces me to feel like I’m always competing to be heard and to be wanted. My friends tend to be negative and stressed out about college, which makes me feel anxious as well. I want to leave the group chat and friend group, but I don’t know how to do it in a way that does not cause unnecessary hurt. Any advice? — Leaving Friend Group

DEAR LEAVING FRIEND GROUP: You can consciously stop engaging the friend group and group chat without saying a word. Since your friends seem to be so intensely engaged that they don’t give you space to communicate anyway, just stop talking to them. Focus on your work, your future, and your goals. Stop looking at or writing in the chat.

Email Harriette at askharriette@harriettecole.com.

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