Placebos work and placebos spread.
We’re wired to believe something, but the specifics of what we believe often come from other people.
When there were a limited number of channels, mainstream ideas were the focus of our conversations, because the mainstream was all that was widely amplified. Someone might believe that the world was flat, or that the moon landings were faked, but that lived on the fringe. Pockets of odd beliefs.
One of the reasons that Mehmet Oz’s snake oil nostrums were so disturbing was that he took his mainstream reputation, added mass TV and legitimized fringe placebos to make a profit.
Now, thanks to the billion-channel universe, the mainstream has gone out with the tide and every belief can feel mainstream if you immerse yourself in it. You can surround yourself with people who are sure that birds aren’t real, or find a community to reinforce that the patent medicine you’re taking works. And that will increase its positive placebo effect.
Belief increases the efficacy of our practice, but touting an idea can also generate a profit for the touter. Sometimes those two things align, but often, the profit motive pushes them to where they are out of sync.
Our choice of media and cultural inputs matter, now more than ever. When we choose what to see and who to hang out with, we’re actually choosing our future.