Shampoo commercials are my favorites. You know, the ones that start with the model with a head full of crazy, tangled hair looking so frustrated with a brush in one hand and a straightening iron in the other? Then, the commercial shows a close-up graphic of what her poor damaged hair actually looks like. Then, my favorite part, the mysterious shampoo beads float into the screen, swirl around her hair follicle, their DNA-double-helix-looking-tails trailing behind them, and magically her computerized hair is smooth and shiny. Pan back out from her digital hair and suddenly the same model is shown with perfect, smooth, silky hair. No need for her brush or straightener anymore. And, thanks to the shampoo, we all know she will be happy, have a beautiful marraige and perfect kids with heads of hair that are shiny with nary a tangle.
My favorite parts are the pseudoscience graphics. You know, the ones that show us what we would see the magic hair beads doing if we had microscopes in our showers. People must believe anything that shows computer generated things that look like molecules performing miraculous tasks because they’re all over commercials. Probiotic commercials where tiny dots ease constipation, dog food commercials where magic meat molecules rush into a dog’s body, strengthen his muscles and improve his Frisbee catching abilities and mouthwash commercials where fuzzy white foam molecules strip away computer generated plaque on digital teeth. If I could go back to school, I would drop this whole nutrition gig and get a degree in pseudoscience graphic design. Is that a thing?
The more I think about it, I probably shouldn’t love this as much as I do. We’re inundated with pseudoscience on a daily basis and even with a degree in science, I find myself falling for it sometimes. The interwebs, news media and magazines are swimming with it. It’s magic disguised as science and we eat it up. The truth of the matter is that a simple graphic will rarely summarize accurately almost anything going on in your body. You’re body is complex and amazing. And random little molecule looking thingies that magically fix all of your ailments just don’t exist. There’s also not magic diets, or foods to eat or avoid that are the secret cure-all we’ve all been looking for. Sorry.
Oversimplified and often misleading, pseudoscience sells products and gets re-tweets and blog shares. It’s more exciting than common-sense, scientifically proven health concepts. But that excitement can make you waste your money and time and fill your brain with all sorts of misleading information. Information that can cause you to spend money on products that won’t do what the fancy graphics say they will, spend your time following every diet tip or trend out there and spend your energy trying to keep up with all the latest claims.
And while I really enjoy watching commercials chalked full of pseudoscience graphics, we all need to pseudoscience-proof ourselves. So, over the next two weeks, we’re gonna take a look at the media, your cousin Sal’s crazy blog and one of the most intimidating forces out there: The IMF (Internet Mom Force). We need to be prepared, because if we aren’t, we’ll end up buying every magic cure we’re sold and constantly changing our diets with every new trend. And that, my friends, is no way to live.