My Gentle, Intelligent Brother Is Now A Conspiracy Theorist: Part II
Lessons learned after my family’s story went viral in the Huffington Post
The moment I steadied my shaking hand, took a deep breath, and pushed “send” on the 4th rewrite of “My Gentle, Intelligent Brother Is Now A Conspiracy Theorist, and His Beliefs Are Shocking,” I had to accept there was no going back. My story, heart, and family were flayed open for others to inspect. Under the insightful eye of the Huffington Post’s Personal Editorial Director, Noah Michelson, we scrutinized the story for slander and reworked it for clarity. Noah gently pushed me to share my feelings rather than just the analytical research. Having never “gone viral,” I was unprepared for what happened next.
I didn’t expect the sheer number of people going through the same thing. What spoke to them (or so they said) was my approach to digging deep into all sides of this controversial and complex subject. Exploring these multifaceted “sides” with a genuine desire for understanding rather than proving I’m right appealed to a vast audience exhausted by division, hate, anger, and fear.
At last count, the story received 1.5 million reads on the Huffington Post, accompanied by 25 pages of comments with another 100K+ on Facebook alone (according to Meltwater, a media analysis tool). I have no idea what happened after syndication on Yahoo, Daily Magazine, and Democratic Underground. People found me on every social media and messaging app I ever used and sent five-paragraph emails sharing their family situations, psychiatric diagnosis, and books, articles, podcasts, and videos that have helped them on their journey. In the beginning, the comments were 95% encouraging, insightful, commiserate, and lengthy. As the story circulated in the mainstream, I noted that the comments got a lot shorter and meaner.
I’m humbled to say this article resulted in:
- A podcast focused on How Isolation Affects The Growth Of Conspiracy Theories with psychiatrist Timothy Hayes.
- A panel interview with a Canadian talk show called Real Talk with Ryan Jesperson
- A Twitter Space conversation with Huff Post’s Noah Michelson.