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Three Diseases That Are Actually Cultural Memes

By 11.05.12

Cultural pressure is a very, very strange thing. And, as we get more closely networked, certain… problems that our brains are hardwired to make worse are coming to the fore. Namely the fact that we, as a species, tend to be, well, idiots.

The most basic is the meme as disease. There is no scientific reason for a person to actually become sick, but they read about something on a website, think it applies to them and, suddenly, they are sick. That’s the thing: People suffering from these problems are not, as a rule, faking. They’re actually feeling sick, based on nothing more than reading on the Internet that they should be sick.

It sounds bizarre, but it’s becoming increasingly common. Here are three examples you’ll probably run into.

Wind Turbine Syndrome

The idea is pretty straightforward: Being near wind turbines makes you sick because of the constant noise from them, and the flashing as light shines through spinning blades.

The sound and shadow flicker is undeniably annoying if you live near them, of course, but actually making you sick? Whenever actual science is done, there’s no proof that it actually causes any sort of problem.

So why is this spreading? Well, consider for a moment that Wind Turbine Syndrome is a proven medical condition as far as climate skeptic blogs are concerned, and seems to suddenly strike groups of people who lost a lawsuit over having a wind farm in their town.

WiFi Allergy

For most of us, easy access to WiFi is a good thing. Not, however, to people convince they’re allergic to the magic new technology of 802.11b. They claim to have electromagnetic hypersensitivity, so if you could stop using your computer, smartphone and everything else, that’d be great.

The problem is this: The vast majority of those claiming problems blamed modern technologies like mobile phone towers and WiFi hotspots, saying the reaction was most intense around these technologies. Which would make sense except these are nothing more than radio towers, which aren’t exactly a new technology when it comes to applying electromagnetic fields.

Apparently these people have been going around getting blasted by much higher energy from Your Source For Rock From The ’80s, ’90s, and Today without any sort of problem, and yet the library’s low power radio is somehow giving them a rash. Literally, in case you were wondering.

It’s getting to the point where they’re moving to towns like Green Bank, WV in swarms to get away from WiFi signals. Yes, being scared of the future can literally make you sick.

Gluten Intolerance

But wait, you’re saying, celiac disease is a real, medical thing! And you’d be right. Experienced by roughly 1% of the population, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to wheat proteins wherein your intestine basically destroys itself if so much as a bit of the usually indigestible wheat protein makes its way into the tract. It’s not an allergy, although it is possible to be allergic to wheat, and it’s a horrible disease.

So why does this make the list? Been to a grocery store lately?

The problem with “gluten intolerance” is that basically it lets people think they have celiac disease when they likely don’t. It’s kind of the dietary version of everybody even remotely socially awkward you know suddenly spontaneously self-diagnosing with Asperger’s a few years ago.

The problem is people see the symptoms as solely “diarrhea and fatigue” and assume that it’s just that you get the Hershey squirts a lot and feel sort of tired. It’s really a lifelong disease that starts at birth, keeps you from absorbing other nutrients like calcium, and can cause everything from bizarre skin conditions to chronic infertility. Seriously, ask somebody who actually has this disease what it feels like. Like most genetic conditions, it is not fun.

Keep in mind that all of this started not thanks to rigorous scientific research, but because a host of The View decided gluten was making her fat and wrote a book about it. Since then, gluten-free as a diet has gotten to the point where you can get gluten-free beer.

Although, at least on the upside, people with the actual disease can go grocery shopping and get a much wider range of products. So that’s a positive benefit, at least.


TOPICS#MEMES
TAGSbiologyLISTSMedicinescienceweirdness

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