When Wellness Is Bad For Us
I consider myself pro-wellness. A fan of things natural. Anti-plastic. But as a former New York City yoga teacher and daughter of health club owners, I’ve watched in astonishment as my fellow healthy lifestyle enthusiasts (and my dad) have slid down a slippery linguistic slope, only to land in the lap of the anti-vax world. I wrote about feeling hit over the head by this phenomenon after bingeing Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, a show where guests at a wellness retreat get microdosed because “natural” equals “safe.”
But the more significant trend—that Venn diagram where green juice drinkers and rabid white supremacists intersect in an anti-vax middle—is how the language of wellness itself is facilitating this transition. And how we’re all susceptible to these pseudoscience messages.*
Take, for example, Nicki Minaj’s recent Twitter debacle. After informing her 22 million followers that her cousin’s friend what’s-his-face was dumped at the altar over vaccine-induced testicular swelling, Minaj found herself defending the disinformation. In a later Tweet she assured her fans that if she did get vaccinated, “it’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research.” Also probably in order to be able to go on tour. Her final words on whether to be vaccinated could have come from any wellbeing influencer, “make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”
Let’s break this down, starting with the latter claim. By invoking bullies and agency, Minaj is traveling familiar wellness ground. But in touting her research skills, she’s sending a message that resonates on both sides of the aforementioned Venn spectrum.
For Minaj, backlash was swift, and apparently caused her to become so desperate that on September 15, she posted a clip of Tucker Carlson defending her Tweet. As of this writing, that was the last day she’d posted on Twitter (she’s still active on Instagram and Facebook). This is not Minaj’s first social media break, just her latest. But for those who’ve rallied around the singer’s — according to current medical research — false claims, her abandoned but still visible Twitter feed is as dangerous as any snake oil seller.