How conspiracy theories “infiltrated” the wellness community

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Watch the CBSN Originals documentary “Conspirituality: How Wellness Became a Gateway for Misinformation” in the video participant above. It premieres on CBSN Sunday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and a pair of a.m. ET.


Susanna Barkataki, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles, noticed it unfold on her social media feed beginning final year.

“It was so fascinating, because they were using words that spoke to me and people like me,” Barkataki instructed CBSN Originals’ Adam Yamaguchi. “They were saying phrases and hashtags like, ‘Where we go one, we go all.’ That’s like, OK, yeah, that sounds very yogic, right? … Or the ‘Great Awakening.’ I mean, that’s samadhi, that’s enlightenment.”

The teacher, whose affect spans past her studio to over 68,000 Instagram followers, shortly realized these phrases stemmed from QAnon, the conspiracy principle that began as a fringe motion amongst supporters of former President Trump. She additionally seen individuals questioning whether or not COVID-19 was a authorities conspiracy or a “plandemic” — echoing a infamous video that was banned from Facebook and YouTube for spreading harmful falsehoods about the virus. 

“I was shocked, because people I knew, friends, colleagues, other yoga teachers, were starting to jump on the bandwagon of these conspiracy theories. And I thought, ‘Wait, these are people who I know and who I respect. Why are they sharing this misinformation?’” Barkataki recalled. 

Conspiracy theories “infiltrated slowly,” she mentioned, helped alongside by the undeniable fact that some members of the yoga and wellness communities have been already inclined to question and diverge from mainstream authorities on well being and science.

“So that made yoga practitioners and wellness practitioners really vulnerable to this time of misinformation,” Barkataki mentioned. She crafted a collective assertion with different yoga practitioners to take a public stance in opposition to QAnon and misinformation.

Yoga instructor Susanna Barkataki says she has seen conspiracy theories and misinformation infiltrate the wellness community on social media.

CBS News

Anusha Wijeyakumar, who’s the wellness advisor at Hoag Hospital and founding father of the holistic wellness group Shanti Within, has seen an analogous development. She defined how the Western model of yoga — which she describes as a departure from its historic roots — spawned a subculture that has change into a “hotbed” of misinformation. 

“In many ways, yoga and wellness has become a place of anti-science. So, just some quick examples: people peddling the juice cleanse that is going to solve all of your problems. When we see the fat shaming, the rise of the toxic diet culture in yoga and wellness. We also see the love of crystals. I love a crystal … there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking crystals. However, crystals curing cancer? Where’s the science behind that?” Wijeyakumar mentioned. 

There is usually extra concerned than simply sharing messages and beliefs. As Barkataki identified, inside these circles, there’s money to be made.

“There are also motives that maybe aren’t so pure,” she mentioned, noting that “the wellness industry actually did triple the amount of growth that the pharmaceutical industry had done in the last three years up until the point that COVID happened. And so, many of these yoga practitioners and wellness practitioners stood to benefit financially a great amount if they could say, ‘Oh, don’t take a shot. But this supplement and these food products I sell will help you stay healthy.’”

For some, expertise and social media performed an important position as an entry level for pseudoscientific beliefs. UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan, who research the intersection of tech, politics and societies, mentioned tech firms are constructing merchandise the place behavior-modifying algorithms are having “profoundly manipulative effects.”

“So if I have a certain anxiety about different vaccines, or Dr. Fauci, for example, those anxieties are extremely likely to be reinforced, and I would also say amplified,” Srinivasan mentioned, including, “The best way to feed someone’s anxieties is to not just echo what their existing anxiety is, but to reinforce it with something worse. Something a little more hardcore.” 

“So you’re really being dragged down the rabbit hole,” Yamaguchi mentioned.

“It’s a rabbit hole,” Srinivasan agreed. “And this is something I’ve seen personally.”

Amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of greater than 4.7 million individuals worldwide, together with over 675,000 in the United States, the penalties of this parallel pandemic of misinformation have gotten extra dire. 

“We’re in a real conundrum because there is suspicion and distrust of almost everything except one’s own tailored, targeted, personalized world,” Srinivasan mentioned, stressing that we will not simply consider it as a tech drawback. “Technology has become the gateway, and the language that basically mediates all of our experiences.”