From a distance, nutrition would appear to be a pretty gentle profession – lots of feel good food talk; fun cooking classes and trips to the supermarket and who does not like to talk about what they are cooking and eating? 15 years ago, that’s what I thought as well, until the rise of the social media nutrition hater. For some reason, any opinion about diet and nutrition, from a professional or not, will now generate much powerful, often hate ridden communication for reasons I am yet to understand. A simple Facebook post that mentions a particular product or recommendation can almost guarantee an onslaught of abuse, giving far most energy to a simple photograph of a particular breakfast cereal or bread than I would have ever thought possible.
What is it about diets and nutrition that can elevate emotions to the point of anger, hate and aggression? And why is this hate directed so powerfully towards the health professionals who are only trying to give useful, scientifically proven information to those who are interested in it?
Indeed, my experience with this type of negative emotion has been most apparent as the social media mediums such as Facebook and Twitter permit faceless, but direct, instant interactions with individuals whose paths you would never cross in life, let alone have a conversation with. In recent months we have seen the result of these online ‘trolls’ who take much delight in firing off inappropriate and simply rude comments and opinions that would usually be screened in other communication pathways, if not blocked completely. If you speak to any media personality they can give you classic examples of the disgusting comments and feedback they receive on a daily basis through their social media channels, whether it be for their choice of dress, opinions or for just being who they are. It seems if you are going to put it out there, you also have to have a pretty thick skin.
But back to nutrition and the specific hate there. From memory much of the direct hate and criticism developed when a group of non-health professionals brought out big selling diet books on controversial topics like the role of sugar in the diet. Unlike accredited professionals who have a range of guidelines controlling sensationalized statements like ‘quit sugar’, these largely unregulated individuals can create whatever diet headline they like, without the scientific data to back them up and create powerful cult like followings as a result. Such groups band together and feel more comfortable in their groups to openly reject other models or opinions that do not agree with the views of their diet cult. They feel strong enough behind a computer and within their group to hurl abuse and hate at any opinion that does not agree with theirs and before you know it, you have 20 haters arguing between themselves on your Facebook page.
So, where does that leave the humble nutritionist whose only goal is to deliver user friendly nutrition information to her followers? Like a number of my media friends I am too working hard at building a tougher skin and becoming very good friends with the ‘BLOCK’ button. It is very simple; if you do not like what I write about or say, just stop following people. And take a load off, there is really no need to get so angry about a muesli bar. Even I think there are more important things in life.