Experts are no longer sitting still with a rampaging social media trend, which became evident during the recent wildfire that swept through Maui, Hawaii.
The disaster that swept through Hawaii took about 100 lives, and almost all the houses in the town were reduced to ashes. However, several social media influencers started a wave of misinformation about the circumstances surrounding the wildfires and questioned whether it was indeed a natural disaster.
Experts also noted that most, if not all, of the influencers involved in the disinformation are wellness influencers. The niche of many of these influencers includes yoga, acupuncture, alternative health, fitness, weight regulation diets, and lifestyle.
One of the common conspiracy theories making rounds on social media is the claim that the Hawaii incident is the government’s doing. This narrative also claims that such disasters will not stop until citizens agree with publicly-funded climate change agendas.
Another set of influencers claims that the government is trying to reclaim the prime property in Maui and thought it best to displace residents with a wildfire. According to this theory, the US government is attempting to build a smart city in Hawaii.
Yet another theory suggests that the military is testing advanced laser weapons and letting them loose on the Hawaiian town. All this misinformation has been spread to collectively millions of social media followers.
However, research experts say they have observed a relationship between the activities of wellness influencers and the spread of conspiracy theories. The researchers learned that these influencers would often hop on the waves of trending conspiracy theories to trade their merchandise. Their goal may be to sell a course or emotionally engineer their followers to buy a supplement off their online shelf.
Tracing back the trend using first principles, the team of researchers found that the trend became a thing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wellness influencers were the loudest voices during the anti-vax sentiments.
However, as the strength of the no-vaccine mandate waned, these influencers jumped to the Hawaii wildfire conspiracy. Experts have slammed these influencers for their selfish strategy of self-propagation.
Most wellness influencers are intelligent enough to realize that the conspiracy theories lack water. Still, they exploit the disinformation to increase traffic to their pages and earn some more passive income.
Cécile Simmons is a researcher with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, based in the UK. The core of the institute’s research is the dynamics of misinformation. Interestingly, Simmons is also a certified yoga trainer and follows quite a few wellness accounts on social media.
When she noticed the various shades of misinformation on these wellness accounts, many with millions of followers, she collaborated with other researchers to unravel the trend.
The resulting study revealed that many followers of these wellness accounts are unaware that they are consuming misinformation due to the credibility they have ascribed to the influencers. They also discovered that baby boomers and older generations are more vulnerable to such misinformations than Gen Zs.
The researchers also discovered that social media platforms, like Meta, owners of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, are doing very little to check the exploitation of their services to spread misinformation.
You Might Also Like: