Shan’ann Watts: MLM & Magical Thinking – just how bad was it?

MLM and Magical Thinking go hand in hand. In the same way that God created the heavens and the Earth, and Harry Potter rose to fame and fortune simply by incantation, we can too. We can also create heaven and whatever Earth we like, we can also slay our enemies – even sickness – simply by saying the right things. Right?

If you’re an actor, yes, maybe. For the rest of us, including the likes of another The Secret follower – Jodi Arias – life turns out a little different no matter how elegant our semantics, no matter how compelling or fake our diaries. Words have power, certainly, but words without action tend to create conflict – and crime.

One definition of Magical Thinking reads:

Magical thinking is the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. A four-year-old child, for example, might believe that after wishing for a pony, one will appear at his or her house.

MLM is much the same way. It’s a sort of brain fart where people wake up one day and just because they’re told they can have anything they wish for, they think they can. And when enough people wearing the same logos on their hats and shirts say the same thing, it can reach a critical mass with the weak minded.

Le-Vel’s Facebook page shows there are plenty of them out there, over 1.1 million in the Thrive cult at present.

The video below provides plenty of additional psychological back story to Shan’ann. She talks about still being affected by issues of childhood. But she’s abundantly clear that her family is Thrive, her lifestyle is Thrive, her philosophy is Thrive and her savior is Thrive.

She’s specific in stating that in 2016 her team fell just short of $300 000 in sales volume.

Fullscreen capture 20181002 011323 Is that a lot when divided by a team of roughly four, or was it more than four? It’s not clear what Le-Vel’s various levels actually mean. Shan’ann described herself on Instagram in 2018 at the time of her death as a 80K VIP LeVel Promoter. So was she earning $80 000 in sales per year, commissions, was that her total income?


I’m not going to spend any more time here trying to figure out the MLM finances right now, although that’s a labyrinth that needs to be decoded into simple bottom line figures eventually. Perhaps ex-Thrivers can comment anonymously below on how the dollars and cents add up – or don’t add up.

What we can say is no matter how successful Shan’ann was or how wonderful Thrive products are, the Watts family were in serious financial difficulty when the murders happened. They were being sued by their homeowners association, and it looked like they were headed for a divorce. It also appears as if Shan’ann was losing her MLM mojo for the first time in July and especially August 2018, when her Facebook Live videos dropped to zero.

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What’s the typical space of time for MLM people to be sucked in and spat out? According to one small business website:

  • In the first year of operation, a minimum of 50% of representatives drop-out.
  • After five years of operation, a minimum of 90% of representatives have left the company.
  • By year 10, only those at or near the top have not dropped out – making it safe to say at least 95% of representatives have dropped out.

So by mid-August 2018, Shan’ann was nicely in the middle of the 2nd projection. The other factor is of course her husband, Chris Watts. Whether or not Shan’ann was still gung ho about it, was he? And if her business partner wasn’t, what did that indicate about Shan’ann’s income, with or without his participation?

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As is the case with all MLM, it’s easy [or easier] to make those initial sales. It gets harder and harder to maintain them as the market saturates, and as those drinking the Kool-Aid pass the gullibility peak, and pessimism [otherwise known as reality] sets in. When people start picking up a shitty aftertaste to the Kool-Aid and the momentum turns in MLM, it tends to do so permanently.

MLM lives and dies on buy-in. When your partner promotors become ye of little faith, and abandon all hope, the house of cards craters into a pile of dust. Those promoters who buy into it the deepest have the most face to lose, so they try to dig in, hoping the tide will turn.

When it comes to magical thinking, just as hay can be spun into gold, and God can breathe life into dust, bodies can become dust again, and gold can be spun back into hay. Sucks don’t it?

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The screengrab above is from Shan’ann Watts twitter page, indicating just a few of the accounts she was following. She was also following dozens of lupus-themed accounts.

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For further reading on MLM click here.

Shan’ann talks about spending “quality time” with Chris Watts

SHAN’ANN: And then we have our time to…um…enjoy each other. You know, um…watch TV, or…whatever it is we decided to do. Play games. Or Uno. Or whatever. Um…it’s quality time for me and him. Because you need that in a relationship. When you have kids, it’s always about the kids and we often forget about ourselves and our…significant other. So I think it’s very important and very vital that you spend that time with each other. And…we definitely get to do that now, and awake… We’re not sleeping. Um, or me listening to him snore, vice versa. So it’s been a blessing, with that….Chris works out in the field, very busy job. Um…that has to really challenge his little brain over there…My parents were my biggest sceptics…go figure. My mom and dad lived with me and I had to force feed it to them every single day.

Shan’ann Watts: “I refuse to let anyone take over my body, or my life”

To be a MLM promoter means to be a Pollyanna. A Pollyanna is an excessively cheerful or optimistic person, but it goes further than that. A Pollyanna is overly expressive, overly extroverted, excessively [often annoyingly] optimistic. Think about that and contrast it with the idea of an introvert, and a strong silent type.

Personality clash?

Since the Watts story is the story of a fairy tale that turns into a family holocaust, let’s do our due diligence and briefly examine the fairy tale classic Pollyanna. Once done, have a look at the three videos posted below. All three are set to kick off at compelling moments that show real cracks in the Pollyanna performance.

From Wikipedia:

The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna but feels it is her duty to her late sister.

Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. 

With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt’s dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. The Glad Game shields her from her aunt’s stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, she exults at the beautiful view from the high window; when she tries to “punish” her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.

Soon Pollyanna teaches some of Beldingsville’s most troubled inhabitants to “play the game” as well… Aunt Polly, too—finding herself helpless before Pollyanna’s buoyant refusal to be downcast—gradually begins to thaw, although she resists the glad game longer than anyone else.

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna’s robust optimism is put to the test when she is struck by a car and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn’t realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she is told what happened to her. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly’s house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she at least has had her legs.

The novel ends with Aunt Polly marrying her former lover Dr. Chilton and Pollyanna being sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and is able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled and unable to walk well.

There’s so much there that fits like a symbolic blueprint over the Watts case, isn’t there?

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Now consider the import of the videos below, and Shan’ann’s attempt to Pollyanna-ize her self, her life and her family in the name of a MLM company and product.

Is Shan’ann a genuine Pollyanna? Is she genuinely optimistic? It’s too easy to simply dismiss the MLM aspect as fake. It’s too easy to dismiss Shan’ann’s personality, as the victim, as irrelevant.

What happens, what’s the emotional cost when someone in a marriage and a household isn’t happy but pretends to be, and more pertinently, how does it impact on someone else in the same household who has a different personality? What happens when the person you married becomes someone else, and even that someone isn’t real?

The irony is, if Shan’ann became that to him, a stranger in his own home, he also became that to her, with monstrous and devastating consequences.

Shan’ann Watts’ Facebook Profile is still Public – and what it could mean

45 days after her murder, Shan’ann’s Facebook page, which was completely open to the public, is still completely open. This is unprecedented in a high-profile true crime case. It means anyone who wants to poke around through her life, looking inside her home, looking at her family and friends, can still do so. And people have. One 31 minute video posted by Shan’ann has already been viewed over 140 000 times.

As part of my research into TWO FACE I started noticing comments alongside these videos, including from key figures in this case such as Nickole Atkinson, not from several weeks prior but posted in recent days.

Everything posted on Facebook, including photos and videos, are matters of public record. Anything you say alongside those photos and videos could be used in a court of law, especially accusations and allegations against Chris Watts.

There have already been suggestions [malicious and totally unfounded in my opinion] that he molested his children. Although it’s doubtful specific members of the public could be held liable, what could happen is Chris Watts’ defense may claim his rights to privacy have been violated continuously, indiscriminately and excessively. It’s an open legal question – have they?

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We may not care about the rights of a murderer, but we ought to care about the issue in a general sense. How would Shan’ann feel if she was still alive, knowing her life was on display post mortem? How do you feel about giving up access to our online identity? Would you? If she could speak from the grave, would Shan’ann still want her social media open and exposed to the world? What rights does a deceased individual have to their social media? Should all privacy and privileges be relinquished when we die?

It also begs the question, who has authorized her page to remain public and why?

I know more than a little about these issues, because as it happens, the very first true crime book I wrote was borne out of my exclusive access to the murder victim on Facebook. At the time I wrestled with the ethics involved, as well as the legal aspect.

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As time went by, Reeva Steenkamp’s story was simply not addressed, and so, I took it upon myself to counter that with Reeva in her own Words. It was an instant bestseller, and it’s even possible the momentum of that narrative carried over into the trial narrative and eventually overwhelmed Oscar Pistorius’ dubious narrative. That book not only took the narrative away from Reeva’s murderer, it did so in a way that was authentic, it allowed Reeva to speak for herself when virtually no one else did, would or could.

The Oscar Pistorius trial was extraordinary in terms of how the victim was reduced to a non-entity, so much so that officially today Oscar has been found guilty of murdering an unarmed intruder, not Reeva Steenkamp. In court, during the sentencing phase, her father Barry took the stand and begged the court to release photos of gunshot wounds to her head so people could see her again, see her wounds, see what had happened to her.

Barry went to far as to say he often agonized at night, driving sharp objects into his own flesh where Reeva had been shot, in order to feel her pain. This was because the media narrative, the court narrative and Oscar’s narrative had reduced her to nothing. A figment of the imagination.

Her Facebook narrative, and a few surviving WhatsApp messages, allowed her to have a voice. And after five years, Oscar was finally convicted of murder [albeit not of murdering her].

But Reeva’s Facebook profile was private, accessible only to those who were already her friends when she died. In hindsight, I believe that was one of my most important books, but not everyone on Facebook is going to do credit to your story. And not everyone’s lives online are – for the lack of a better word – innocent. Here’s an illustration from Moneyweb, an online investment magazine:

 …if someone consents to having their online assets retrieved by providing login details to heirs in their will, the heirs could be found guilty of hacking in terms of the service provider’s terms of service agreement.

Thus, in leaving digital assets to an heir, the first obstacle is access… A lot of service providers would inhibit a user from providing their login details and access to their accounts to other people. The second issue is the digital asset itself. There are various types of digital assets and the rights assigned to these assets differ…The rights assigned to an e-mail account varies greatly from the rights assigned to digital music for example. There may also be other difficulties: a user may not want their heirs to have access to all their digital data.

Booyens says she came across a case where a widow tried to access her husband’s e-mail accounts – purely to obtain records kept in the account. However, her late husband did not leave her any login details or consent to access the digital account. To overcome the issue, she hired someone to hack into the account and discovered that her husband was having an affair.

“Obviously her husband did not want her to get that much access.”

The same applies to this case.

But it also raises a much larger issue. Besides the public’s rights to their own online archive vis-a-vis Facebook’s almost automatic expropriation of it when we die, how does the law interrogate the labyrinth?

Back to  Moneyweb:

…what are users consenting to?

…Facebook and YouTube expressly state that the user remains the owner of the content that they post. Amazon and Apple on the other hand say that customers have a licence of use. This means that ownership does not vest in the user and therefore they do not have rights that can be transferred. Even where users own the content, service providers may still assign themselves a wide spectrum of rights to use the content royalty-free and worldwide or for sub-licensing and transfer.

But what happens to a user’s rights when they pass away?

Facebook gives users the option to decide whether they want their accounts to be memorialised, deleted upon death or whether they would like to appoint someone to administer their accounts. Similarly, Gmail (Google) offers an inactive account manager service which provides for the account to be deleted or for someone else to gain access. Users can specify how much access should be granted.

Where a user only has a licence of use of the digital asset, they don’t have the right to dispose of it, but what if they have ownership yet cannot access the digital asset?

Some authors argue that the Copyright Act has confirmed that the ownership of e-mails can be established, but access may still be a problem… In this regard, the definition of property may be wide enough to include digital assets in terms of the Administration of Estates Act, which means that the executor – which has temporary custody over the estate – can gain access to the digital assets.

But what about post-mortem privacy?

Booyens says that internationally, courts are having a really difficult time following one line of argument…legislation such as the Promotion of Access to Information Act could protect privacy after death and may deny heirs the right to access an account. However, the Protection of Personal Information Act only defines rights in terms of the personal information of a living person, suggesting that privacy shouldn’t be protected after death.

So here’s a prediction. The Chris Watts case when it comes to trial will likely set enormous precedents for how social media ought to be managed and maintained. It may well set the gold standard for how the law ought to treat the rights of victims online, when they are no longer around to defend their virtual lives.

Was Shan’ann a *genuine* person?

She looks attractive here, even sexy. She’s showing more cleavage than usual and what’s more, she’s aware that she is. She’s flaunting herself.  And as she starts off, there’s a smoldering quality about what she’s saying. As she tucks in her recently coiffed hair, the tone of her voice initially feels like this is going to be quite a deep session. The subject is:

“What if…”

But it’s: “What if you tried Thrive?”

And: “I didn’t believe in…feeling better.”

And: “I’ve never had something change everything…about how I looked at things…how I felt…um…getting up [early in the morning].”

We all feel terribly for Shan’ann and her children. But the more we get to know her, the more we’re discomforted by her absence in many of these videos. She’s there alright, but she’s also not there. She’s selling. She’s become a drone for a MLM company and the real Shan’ann is missing.

It makes one wonder what she’s like as a person. Is she a genuine person. Is she nice to live with? Or is she annoying, her own worst enemy?

She’s clearly very attached to Thrive, happy to attach herself hook, line and sinker to it. It’s Thrive that makes her happy, just as Chris is the best husband she could ever wish for.

We’ve criticized Chris Watts for his lack of credibility, but should we believe everything she says? And if we don’t, where does that leave us?

Just a day in the life of Shan’ann Watts

It’s hard to say why Shan’ann’s portrait of herself, selling products from her kitchen, is so disturbing. With around three minutes remaining in the Live video, Josh Rosenberg, not unexpectedly as it turns out, breaks into the video.

Josh appears to be shopping, and tells Shan’ann he’s “lost his wife”. Shan’ann smiles and is at a loss for words for a few seconds. Then she seems to address someone else, Abbey Lund who’s just asked if the product can be used while pregnant.

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Shan’ann tells Abbey: “I’ll message you.” And then tells Josh: “I’m eating a Pro-bar – on live…”

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Shan’ann and Josh make small talk, but it’s not really small talk. It’s just two Thrive promotors chewing the fat about this product and that, flavors and favorites.

At one point there’s a genuine moment where Josh mentions getting up early and going to the hospital. The point is barely acknowledged as Shan’ann reaches for another box of product, and holds it to the camera. Cassandra Rosenberg, Josh’s wife can be seen moving in the background of the store. In the comments beside the broadcast, it appears she [also a Thrive promoter] has told Shan’ann she can’t go Live with her, ask Josh.

While he’s on Shan’ann holds up a box, tells him how excited she is, and how amazing these Pro-bars are “you have to have one”. The cinnamon roll is amazining…”

Josh answers: “I can’t wait for the lemon meringue or the cookies and cream…”

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There’s just something anemic about the whole thing, isn’t there? Friends turning themselves and each other into online shopping  malls. Shan’ann turning her kitchen into a venue for selling product, while Deeter scampers quietly in the background.

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There’s a tragic emptiness in it somehow. The lights are on but nobody’s home. Although it’s hard to put one’s finger on it, in the same series of comments alongside the video, there’s this from Kallie Turner, posted two weeks ago today.

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Kallie writes: “I wish you were still here [still alive] so I could claim a sample [of Thrive product] from you….”

Josh Rosenberg is also the guy who, on August 18th, five days after her murder, told the Thrive cult not to assume anything or speculate online.

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That may seem completely reasonable, except what they’re doing online seemingly all day, everyday is “speculating” online. Speculating in the sense of engaging in business and trying to draw in consumers. But in matters of life and death, there should be no assumptions, no speculation, no afterthought, just an ongoing empty and cautious silence peppered with more product placements by the Thrivin’ survivors…