New Gurus: Online health is under control

Health coaches. Those that affect productivity. Crypto evangelists. Spend any amount of time on the internet and it won’t be long before you come across modern day prophets full of advice and training courses to fix whatever you have, broadcasting their secret wisdom to an audience of millions (usually in a matter of hours). price). In January, the appeal of those who promise to change our lives with one quick hack is especially strong, through self-improvement.

So now is the right time to listen New Gurus, an eight-part series broadcast on BBC Sounds in December, takes us down the rabbit hole to meet these digital cult leaders. Helen Lewis (ex A new statesman) wants to know how we got here. Where did these people come from and how did they attract such a large following?

Their prescriptions for overcoming our problems range from the basic (fight procrastination by breaking big tasks into manageable chunks) to the weird (drink your own urine for health) to the dangerous (give up vaccines and avoid evidence-based medicine). . They often have no qualifications and are increasingly banned from social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram for spreading malicious conspiracy theories. But their disciples remain faithful. Why?

It’s an interesting study that’s both disturbing and entertaining (the image of the “wild naked man” holding “sexual kung fu” and “sperm retention” seminars will stay with me for a long time). Some of the new gurus you may have heard of—Jordan Peterson, Russell Brand, and Steve Jobs—were the primary architects of today’s obsession with secular enlightenment, as well as the technology that enabled it, according to Lewis. Others are less known to all but their followers.

What they have in common is an uncanny ability to tap into our deepest concerns and our desperate belief that the answers are out there. An enticing message – but be warned that “a weird gimmick” is probably a load.

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[See also: Susan Cooper’s land of shadows]

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