Why QAnon followers are like opioid addicts, and why it matters

A few years ago, QAnon had an obscure internet network organized around a baseless conspiracy theory. It is now ubiquitous, with regular and disturbing news reminding us of its reach.

One way to understand the incomprehensible is to recognize the parallels between QAnon and addictive drugs like opioids.

Last week, we learned of a data breach related to QAnon regarding connections to Colorado voting machines. The week before, people across the country struggled to understand a gruesome homicide allegedly committed by a father who officials said told the FBI he killed his two young children because he believed that they had inherited DNA from their lizard mother that would turn them into monsters. Last spring, a mother admitted to killing her three children, saying she wanted to prevent them from becoming victims of a sadistic pedophile cabal whose existence is widely accepted among QAnon adherents.

Why would such wacky conspiracy theories have a hold over these parents and others across the country? One way to understand the incomprehensible is to recognize the parallels between QAnon and addictive drugs like opioids – which are also manipulated by malicious actors to trap vulnerable people into increasingly unhealthy spirals that ultimately result in the destruction of families and even death. Recognizing these similarities is useful both in accurately diagnosing the QAnon phenomenon and in trying to treat it.

For starters, QAnon, like the painkiller abuse epidemic brought on by the drug oxycodone, engulfs those most vulnerable to its contents. An overwhelming proportion of QAnon supporters arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 insurgency, for example, have mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to an analysis of the ‘University of Maryland. If you think the world is here for you, you’re probably more likely to embrace the QAnon stories that explain exactly How? ‘Or’ What the world is there for you.

Their psychological pain can make these people particularly vulnerable to the content of QAnon, which often evokes fears, anxieties and anger. People who worry about contamination, for example, are probably more susceptible to lies about the Covid-19 vaccine that carries a contaminating agent that makes their children homosexual or transgender.

It’s also likely that prolonged exposure to QAnon’s content will exacerbate or even trigger mental illness, as watching video after video of gruesome devastation can take a toll on anyone’s mental health. This then increases the appeal of remedies prescribed by QAnon, such as refusing Covid vaccines, protesting mask warrants, or even storming the Capitol in Washington. Of course, most people with mental health issues don’t believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, just like a significant proportion of QAnon followers are not mentally ill.

Additionally, the internet platforms through which most QAnon subscribers consume content are deliberately structured to maintain user engagement and foster a kind of addiction. In fact, these online QAnon experiments appear to involve the same brain structures responsible for addiction, as solving the “puzzles” revealed by conspiracy theories can cause dopamine shots for the sake of driving.

After mainstream platforms started many QAnon followers, other even more addicting platforms have filled the void. These channels are echo chambers, so addicted people only see information that confirms what they already believe, dragging them deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

Basically, just like the drug hits, QAnon offers a quick “fix” for the feelings of loneliness, fear and anger that those in pain want to alleviate. People who search for online communities often do so because they feel isolated and alone. It’s no surprise that QAnon’s follower count increased dramatically during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when people were limited to socializing online, and QAnon chat rooms in particular offered a chance to express their frustration. and their indignation. Yet research shows that the more time people spend on social media, the more isolated and lonely they feel, repeating an endless loop of trying – and failing – to meet social needs.

Because, like an addictive drug, QAnon content does not actually suppress the underlying pain, higher “highs” are needed to distract from the root causes of despair. Consumers of QAnon content thus crave new and exciting plots, such as the prophesied return of former President Donald Trump to the White House.

QAnon shares one final parallel with addictive drugs: There is a small but powerful group of individuals who benefit financially and politically from the amplification, dissemination and legitimization of QAnon’s conspiracy theories. In the case of drugs, there are also powerful groups with vested interests – the big pharmaceutical companies that have presided over an overwhelming opioid epidemic among some of the same communities addicted to QAnon now and the dealers pushing illicit drugs into the cities. streets.

It’s crucial that we reduce the damage from QAnon before it reaches the staggering proportions of the opioid crisis, and to do that, we need a variety of tools to attack the infodemic. These include increased transparency and accountability of social media platforms, access to mental health assessment and treatment for vulnerable people, as well as critical thinking and advocacy. media education in our schools.

While it’s easy to see QAnon followers as crazy or evil, the example of the opioid epidemic offers a broader perspective that indicates that pain, vulnerability, and helplessness are part of what makes them feel. brought to their way of thinking. The best approach to helping people get out of QAnon is to do so with kindness and empathy. As with opioid users, QAnon followers suffer and in some ways may feel helpless in the face of their addiction.

Source link

About Harold Hartman

Check Also

Capitol rioter ‘QAnon Shaman’ pleads guilty, disappointed Trump has not forgiven

Jacob Chansley, holding a sign referencing QAnon, speaks as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *