How the Online Health and Wellness Community Became and Entry Point to COVID-19 Conspiracies

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


During the COVID-19 pandemic, a perfect storm was created that included false information formed by people’s need for answers, increasing mistrust of reputable sources, wellness influencers' adoption and spreading of conspiracy theories, and social media algorithms designed to keep users engaged. As we slowly get farther away from the pandemic, recent research is still being conducted to examine the ways in which our lives were affected. A lot of these answers were found in alternative health and wellness sub communities that increased at this time. Alternative health medicines are a broad category of therapies and practices that are used outside of conventional Western medicine. Examples of these practices can include herbal remedies, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga, among others. In recent years, these practices have become commodified and mainstreamed by several individuals who subscribe to aspects of this movement. This is seen in the real world as more people participate in classes that teach these practices and promote them themselves. However due to the pandemic, these communities have been infiltrated with radical right-wing conspiracists who have been able to spread misinformation, affecting our real world. I wanted to understand the online social conditions that allowed this to happen. The goal of this research was to provide a detailed analysis of the online social conditions that could allow someone to buy into these theories and fall into this pipeline. By performing a digital ethnography on three social media influencers and their respective pages, my findings support the argument that traditional and holistic practices have been commodified in the Western hemisphere. In addition, it is the combination of social media echo chambers and the prestige that comes with being a social media influencer within this group are key factors that have allowed these more dangerous conspiratorial subcommunities to form.

This document is currently not available here.