The Wellness Community Has Become Our Snake Oil Salesman
Scamming, conspiracy theories, worthless products being promoted, empty promises being made. All of this is rife within the “wellness” community. As far back as the snake oil salesman who went door to door with that miracle bottle of cure-all, the shaman mixing up the secret potion, or the preacher laying hands on a suffering believer, humans have preyed upon the fear and pain of others.
Any time some internet healer starts their message with these infamous words,
“I’m about to tell you something your doctor will never share with you …”
you should run!
“Conspiracy theories gain traction when people lose trust in institutions. Alternative theories take root, espoused by authentic and relatable influencers masquerading as truth-tellers,” says researcher Stephanie Baker.
And yes, that’s true, too. When whole communities are “feeling it”, the power of the group increases exponentially. That’s how fads can sweep a nation overnight.
So, yes, there’s power in numbers, but there’s also gullibility in numbers.
I contend, however, that humans are always in a form of panic mode. Deep down inside we’re afraid that we’re going to die because we know that everyone will die. Some of us worry more about how we’ll die but many simply didn’t sign on for a termination date when they entered the world and want to postpone it as long as possible. Living in fear, even fear that’s pushed way down inside, makes us paranoid. Paranoia gives rise to a need for increased self protection.
We become preoccupied with finding a guarantee— for staying alive.
When someone famous suddenly endorses a scam artist, we’re impressed. When we’re being offered a simple solution, a pill that takes care of a hundred different problems and a famous person tells us how it turned their lives around, we’re elated.
Suddenly, we have hope and that feels good.
We never stop to think that just maybe this unregulated product, strange form of exercise, unusual approach to dieting, or over-the-top promises might not only be a waste of time and money but could even be harmful to us.
There’s no one holding these scammers accountable.
They get to play by a different set of rules than your doctor. Warning labels are scarce and side effects missing.
Also, whenever people tell me that they did their research first, I shudder. What kind of world would we be living in today if my next door neighbor and a scientist had the same research skills? I mean my next door neighbor lacks the vocabulary to describe what goes on in our bodies before and after any kind of treatment.They don’t even have names for all of the pieces of human anatomy let alone what happens on a cellular level. I struggled to write that last sentence and I have two degrees. I just don’t have two degrees in medical science.
Even scientists in a specific field are hesitant to make too many predictions in another field. They understand that they aren’t qualified to do so.
But not the average Joe. Oh, no. The average Joe knows so little that he doesn’t even know how little he knows. That’s dangerous.
So, someone can throw around some big words and seem very authentic.
Detoxing, all natural, organic, immune system, prayer, positive thoughts, the mystical universe, super foods, supplements, there’s a whole vocabulary that’s user friendly and conducive to magical thinking. Lay people like Joe can latch on to these words and talk the talk. They’ll refer to things like intuitive health care and natural immunity and feel empowered as they explain to their friends why they’re opting for this internet treatment they stumbled across while doing their RESEARCH. And their friends are strangely comforted by these words.
Look! This wellness personality knows something that the rest of the world doesn’t know.
All I have to do is follow their directives and BOOM, life will get better, soon. In fact, while treating what ails me, I’ll see lots of other side benefits as well. Just look at the long list of things this potion will heal.
And, so it goes and has gone for centuries.
Someone wants answers and someone else sees an opportunity. They step up and claim to have the answers without so much as batting an eyelid. Their confidence and willingness to make big promises are exactly what is needed to influence our thinking.
I grew up in a religious cult. Trust me,, I can smell a scam a mile away. I can spot desperation in humans even faster.
Our wellness community has crossed the line from meditation and eating healthy to scam artistry. As their influence grew through big stars representing them and culminating with a kind of business opportunity that only the Internet could provide, the snake oil salesmen of yore morphed into a highly successful influencer, a modern-day con artist.
Except this isn’t just about selling someone land in Florida, sight unseen.
This is about destroying the only true medical progress humans have seen since the beginning of time. And while we want someone to magically solve every illness that plagues us, we’re angry that the scientific process is so meticulous and slow. We want quick, simple fixes, and we want then NOW.
Humans are very, very easy to influence because our big brains are flawed. We’re emotional rather than logical creatures when it comes to solving problems and wishful thinking is all too common. Plus, there’s ALWAYS someone out there just waiting to suck us into their scam. My dad had close to a hundred people in his cult. I’ve seen influencers at work, up close and personal. I’m pretty good at identifying one these days.
Anyone trying to sell me a product that sounds too good to be true is automatically under suspicion.
Because you know what? If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
That’s something my pappy use to tell me way back in the day, because even back in the day some folks eventually realized when they’d been swindled.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.