‘I debunk wellness misinformation for a living… So, why did I fall for it?’

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I am lying on a bed in a small room that smells of incense, while a woman in ostentatious orange glasses sprinkles powder around my ear. She then takes my head and moves it from side to side. Seemingly satisfied, the process is then repeated with a variety of other powdered foods… until half an hour later (and £80 lighter), I emerge from her little studio (located above an estate agent) with a list of foods to avoid (cashews are “toxic” for me, apparently). And the strong suspicion I may have just been duped out of my cash.

In fact, there’s no ‘may’ about it. I have most certainly been duped: applied kinesiology – the allergy “diagnosis” method employed by that particular clinic – is widely derided asquackery, a health scam of the most obvious kind. And, yet, I’d found myself suckered into it. Something I never envisaged happening, given my job as a researcher focusing on online dis- and mis-information. [The difference between the two being intent: while disinformation is deliberate, misinformation is false or misleading information that may be shared inadvertently].

Over the last three years, alongside my side hustle as a yoga teacher with an interest in alternative health, I have professionally tracked conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and vaccines, investigated QAnon, followed far-right provocateurs and climate deniers, and deep-dived into the world of incels and trad wives. My two ‘lives’, as it were, could perhaps seem at odds with one another, but until recently, I believed they worked in perfect harmony – and that the yoga practice helped to take the edge off of the political and sometimes dark nature of my job. A job that also ensured I kept a healthy balance of open-mindedness and sceptical questioning when it came to that aforementioned interest in alternative health methods. Essentially, I had myself down as someone immune to online manipulation.

Content retrieved from: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a45708686/wellness-misinformation-conspiracy-theories/.

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