Uneducated advocates like FoodBabe, educated (not-really) advocates like Tania Browne, and the “cult of mememe”

2 Sep
2014

This image actually made me laugh:

It’s been making circles around the Internet as a way of mocking the FoodBabe and her crusade against big-words-she-cant-pronounce (or comprehend).

And people like her are an easy target. She has no domain of knowledge, she shrieks at everything that seems intimidating, and she brings in a crowd. Then again, with a name like “FoodBabe” (how can you call yourself that and be taken seriously??), we don’t expect much.

At the end of the day, she’s building up what I call the “cult of mememe.” It is doubtful she really cares. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, she shrugs and keeps shrieking. Her only goal is to build up her Facebook and twitter followers (‘social capital’) in order to leverage both eFame and reallifeFame.

While a lot of people are fooled, the more cynical and educated tend to easily dismiss her antics.

My concern is with “educated” advocates who are also obsessive about the “cult of mememe.” These are people who, under the guise of being educated in the sciences, are still obsessed with their social capital and eFame.

I’ll use an example that hits close to home: Tania Browne.

Her bio states that she is studying in health sciences and statistics, and is interested in becoming an epidemiologist. From the face of it, you would think she would appreciate an evidence-based approach (like us!)

And yet when our article on The Guardian appeared, she jumped on it faster than the FoodBabe attacks BigCo, all under the guise of “I study science and blog at The Guardian and SciLogs.” She clearly did not know what she was talking about, but that did not stop her from using big words and making grandiose statements. She was so grossly uninformed that we even wrote a point-by-point rebuttal on how she could not even get the most basic of facts right.

My personal favorite? “I don’t read the full text of papers because that is why we have abstracts.”

Similar to the FoodBabe, she twisted logic and made noise without understanding basic science.

Similar to the FoodBabe, she didn’t care when evidence was produced that clearly contradicted her statements … instead, both seemed more concerned about getting attention and building up her social capital. Evidence was secondary to untrue comments that were getting precious retweets.

Unlike the FoodBabe, Tania Browne presented herself as an educated expert with a relevant academic background.

And to me, that is far more nefarious.

The Internet is devolving. And it’s more than just the media. It’s people’s obsession with social influence and being eFamous. With having followers who retweet and fans who comment and say how right you are (regardless of the truth).

It’s not the uneducated like the FoodBabe that are the problem. It’s the “educated” like Tania Browne who care more about being famous than about the truth.

Relevant: I’ve always abhorred the self-branding. And self-branding is particularly strong in fitness and health. It’s a big reason why Examine.com has always been about the actual research, not the individual behind it. None of our products ever have our names directly on it. You can look it up and find us (we don’t hide that), and we’re accessible… but we’re all part of something much bigger.

2 Responses to Uneducated advocates like FoodBabe, educated (not-really) advocates like Tania Browne, and the “cult of mememe”

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Aurèle

September 4th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Great point Sol.

I have a different point of view where I see personal branding as a mean to reach a wider audience by building “empathy” capital, as we tend to connect more easily with other people than with blank research.

That has its own drawbacks, such as not being recognized at first sight as a reliable and scientifically correct source of information by educated people (thanks to what you described – efame abuse), or the inability to develop the relationship further than empathy.

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Sol

September 5th, 2014 at 10:03 am

Yeah I think I will have to be a bit more explicit in an upcoming blog post – self-branding is fine, it’s the obsession with the cult of personality.

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