Driving home from the office last week I heard a clip on the radio about all of the “should” articles that exist on the internet these days. It’s a topic I had long been considering blogging about because it seems so many of us can fall prey to believing such articles.

“10 Foods You Should Stop Eating Now;” “5 Things All Parents Should Be Doing;” “10 Reasons Why You Should Give Up Relationships.”

So here is my list of 3 reasons why we should stop reading and believing such articles.

  1. The writers are most likely trying to drive traffic to their website versus having our genuine well-being in mind. There are few things that are so black and white that we should do or should not do them in order to live a happy, healthy life. We all know that exercise is beneficial and there is no one thing we need to be doing all of the time. We know that eating nutritious food helps us feel better and stronger and we can still eat foods that have less nutritional value and are enjoyable.
  2. The articles can do a good job convincing us that if we do or don’t do what they say, somehow we’re a worthless human being who is going to die young or suffer a serious illness. Our relationships will disappear and we’ll be left all alone. We know that not everything on the internet is true and this is even more crucial to understand in 2017 because of the amount and types of these articles that exist. Many of them don’t have research to back them up and when they do, they are often only discussing one side of the picture. If we have a genuine concern, it’s going to benefit us more to speak to professionals, do our own research, and draw our own conclusions.
  3. Ultimately articles such as these can cause more harm than they profess to protect us from. For those struggling with existing mental health disorders such as depression or eating disorders, reading about why they should end relationships or why they should stop eating certain foods can exacerbate the disorder. If we’re depressed, the last thing we need is to further isolate and if we have an eating disorder, we can become more obsessed and ritualized by eliminating even more foods. The challenge is that these articles are shared so broadly that there is little escaping them. This isn’t to say that we should blame the articles fully because we do have control over what we click on and what we read. However, when someone is in a vulnerable state this information can reinforce irrational thoughts they may be having. They can search for evidence that supports the reasons why they shouldn’t get better. “See, according to this article, I shouldn’t be eating red meat because…”

The next time you’re tempted to click on a “should” article, I encourage you to stop and consider your intention. What are you hoping to learn, really? Are you actually doing harm to yourself by living your life the way you are? Is there a professional you could talk to instead? The reality is that some pieces of the articles may be true, but we have to pick and choose responsibly what we’re going to believe.