Lowdown and Unworthy: Upworthy Takes on Psychics and Misses the Point
I usually enjoy Upworthy, a clickbait site that featuring interesting and heartwarming stories. I know that at least some of the stories are real, because friends of mine had videos featured on the site.
This week I lost faith in Upworthy. They ran a story that tells half-truths and perpetuates harmful stereotypes about my professional community and me.
The lengthy title of the story is “She dressed up like a psychic and told them what they wanted to hear. Guess what they believed?”
You can imagine the premise from the title. A psychologist with a particular skill at “cold reading” dons some makeup, black garb and cheesy jewelry, and gives readings to people who completely buy in to what she is saying.
This is not original. I’ve seen this shtick done as a gag, as a science experiment, and everything in between. It’s an interesting study, and one worthy of discussion.
The cold reader in the Upworthy video is a psychologist. She calls herself a scientist, but she makes a serious scientific mistake. She presents herself as someone who wants to prove all psychics to be frauds. A scientist with an agenda is always a dangerous thing.
The Upworthy page ends with this over-generalization. “If you want to ask a psychic a question, try a life coach or a therapist instead. You're much less likely to get ripped off.”
Wow. Just, wow.
I do not deny that there exist many psychic frauds, con artists and criminals. I have written about the psychic scams prevalent in my homes states of Connecticut, Florida and New York.
The Upworthy article uses “Miss Cleo” to call to mind one of the best-known psychic frauds of the past few decades. The entire premise of the article is that every professional psychic is a fraud.
There are crooks and incompetents in every profession, Upworthy, not just mine.
There is a lot of controversy about the word “psychic” in the professional tarot community. One well-known tarot professional was recently quoted in a controversial article saying that all people who call themselves psychic are frauds. Clearly, both Upworthy and this tarot professional have jumped on the psychic-hate bandwagon.
Over the past few decades, I’ve seen the word “psychic” come in and out of favor amongst tarotists and other spiritual seekers. Right now, apparently, it’s out of favor. Not to worry, it will be back soon.
Many professional tarotists prefer the word “intuitive” to “psychic.” Many diviners do not claim to be psychic at all. As a professional tarotist myself, this is my thought. It doesn’t matter whether I call myself “psychic” or not. You will find the information I give you extremely helpful. There are good, helpful readers in the world, and I’m one of them. What word you use to describe my talent doesn’t matter.
That brings us to the topic of cold reading. People think of cold reading as a psychological trick, rather than a psychic experience. I would suggest that, to some extent, folks who are good at cold reading are people who have a good sense of other people. The cold reader in the video is a psychologist. Why is “having a good sense of other people” not the same thing as “psychic” or “intuitive?” If cold reading were simply a trick that anyone could do, well, then anyone could do it. The truth is, some people are very good at cold reading, and then announce that they “aren’t psychic.” To me, it’s a matter of perspective and semantics.
In the video, the cold reader explains that reading body language and facial expression is a huge part of cold reading, and therefore, part of the way that we “psychics” “trick” our clients. The majority of the work I do is on the phone, where I cannot see body language or facial expression. Many other great readers work by telephone. Determined to discredit psychics en masse, this video does nothing to address this obvious discrepancy in the psychologist’s theory that all “psychic” reading is actually cold reading.
Upworthy is a site that promotes inclusivity. And, yet, for all their noble goals, Upworthy has treated my community with prejudice and propaganda.
As one who works as a professional psychic, I want to say this to Upworthy. Describing someone’s outfit as “dressing as a psychic” is an offensive stereotype. The actual get-up that the reader is wearing in the video adds insult to injury. I can guarantee you, that is not how I dress for work, even when a costume is requested.
Finally, Upworthy’s assertion that a “life coach” or a “therapist” is always a better choice than a psychic is just laughable. First, these are completely different job descriptions. You wouldn’t want to hire a therapist to entertain at the prom, would you? Likewise, a person who needs a therapist may not be a good candidate for a psychic reading. Second, there are good and bad in every profession. You can’t know that the life coach you get will be ethical, or that the psychic you hire won’t be.
As with all professions, the potential client needs to do the research. You’ll regret hiring a bad lawyer, a bad auto mechanic, or a bad psychic.
Shame on you, Upworthy, for taking a cheap shot at my community. Psychic frauds have been the bane of my twenty-plus year career. Good people are taken advantage of by slick swindlers in a way that makes every psychic professional look bad. I do everything I can to educate potential clients about the differences between con artists and legitimate professionals. When you paint my peers and me with the same brush you paint Miss Cleo and her ilk, you make us another of their many victims.