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As heard on NPR…just barely (Member Post)

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

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You can hear me on NPR: I was on the Oct 24 episode of the series “Body Electric” (transcript), which “investigates the relationship between our technology and our bodies,” hosted by NPR star Manoush Zomorodi.

You can hear me… but you won’t hear me for long.

My contribution is fine, I guess. It’s brief and relatively harmless. PainScience.com gets a clear positive mention, and I’m always grateful for that. But the story here is that everything of substance I had to say was left on the cutting room floor. All they used from my long conversation with Ms. Zomorodi was one trivial snippet. It’s nice, but fluffy.

I report on this experience in a little more detail below for members only, a small but spicy post.

Promotional banner for the NPR series “Body Electric.” That title dominates the left of the banner in a futuristic “computery” font, followed by the tagline, “Investigating the relationship between our technology and our bodies — and how we can fix it.” On the right is a stylized rendering of da Vinci’s famous “anatomy man” that looks like circuitry. Big “Tron” energy.

I don’t actually think there’s any important story to tell about “the relationship between our technology & our bodies.” Unsurprisingly, that attitude problem was edited out of my interview.

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PainSci Member Login

Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember or access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher

Privacy & Security of this form This login is private and secure: the information you submit is encrypted, used only to search for matching accounts, and then discarded.

The interview I remember was both pleasant and substantive. I was asked for my skeptical perspective on posture and I gave it in detail. It was a nice chat.

But the show didn’t use any of that perspective. Literally nothing. Not a word.

Maybe I just sucked. Me talk pretty as a general rule — I’m pretty comfortable in that medium — but maybe I just wasn’t in good form that day.

Too skeptical again!

I think my contribution probably wasn’t used because I was just too skeptical.

Although I am not a mind reader, my brand of heavily referenced curmudgeonry was probably too much at odds with the story they wanted to tell. They were happy enough to criticize an easy and silly target like the claim that cell phone usage causes “horns” — and Nsikan Akpan was great on that topic — but I think that was just cover for hang-wringing about other harms of poor posture.

And I just wouldn’t play along. All my answers swung away from worrying about posture.

Managing expectations of media

I thought I’d managed my expectations of this experience. I‘d hoped to be cast in the role of “token skeptic.”

So I was surprised-but-not-really that they just simply ditched nearly everything I said, extracted only one harmless bit of chit-chat about how I do movement snacking … which, by virtue of adjacency, reinforced the featured claim of the episode (which I knew nothing about in advance), an idea almost as bad as the cell-phone horns thing: that poor posture is emotionally harmful. Which was justified with a squirt of eau de science.

“Want to feel less stressed?” a heading on the episode page asks. “Try strengthening your core and sitting up straight.”

If I’d been asked about that, I would have laughed, and really struggled to be diplomatic. Core strengthening and sitting up straight as a treatment for stress and anxiety is nauseating nonsense. (Perhaps I’ll elaborate on this topic in a follow-up post.)

I have an impressive knack for being unpalatable to mainstream media. Occasionally they are drawn to my weird self-publishing success and eccentric, nerdy critical analysis … but they never want to amplify it. They don’t want to get any of my skeptical cooties on them, I guess.

Is there an important story to tell about tech and our bodies?

I probably should have declined the invitation. I was fooled by their laudable skepticism about cell phone horns. If I’d looked at the bigger picture, I would have noticed that I actually don’t like the premise of the series. Because I just don’t think there’s an important story to tell about “the relationship between our technology and our bodies.” A story, maybe. Things to discuss, sure. But not a series-worthy important story.

For those of you who have already heard the whole series… yes, I have too. And, yes, certainly there’s some good content in there. Nothing is all bad, and this show isn’t even half bad. It’s probably better than average for a project devoted to wellness-fretting. But there is an undeniable intention to demonize our tech-centric and sedentary lifestyles, and it predictably goes overboard.

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