The Moon Landing was fake. Lizard people are running the world. Avril Lavigne has been a doppelgänger since 2012. The FBI has control of all of our devices. Upon reading this, you are probably thinking you’ve stumbled upon some headlines from tabloids, or a collection of poorly made YouTube titles.
What if I told you, however, that these are all “conspiracy theories” that are widely believed throughout the internet?
A conspiracy theory is defined as a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event. These popular theories have gone beyond this definition in recent years, however, as they have been publicized by popular media.
The sensational video streaming website YouTube is by far one of the biggest sights to have embraced conspiracy theories. Countless YouTubers have made it a staple on their channel to talk about the most popular theories going around every couple of weeks, one of the most prominent being Shane Dawson.
But why is it that these ridiculous theories have gained such a media following? What compels people to even harbor a shred of belief for these speculations?
This is what I’m set to find out.
As mentioned before, conspiracy theories have gained quite a large fan base. They’re most commonly seen on YouTube, but are constantly mentioned on Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook.
Is it possible that when we see our favorite social media stars talking about conspiracy theories, we are compelled to believe them too?
Shane Dawson, Kendall Rae, Buzzfeed unsolved, and countless other YouTube channels all do videos on conspiracy theories, and much of their popularity has sprung from this.
For many of us, when we see our favorite celebrities, we are put in the mindset that they can do no wrong. So, when they talk about theories and seem to believe them, we as viewers will most likely believe them too. They tend to present more evidence than contradicting facts towards the theories they discuss. Unless we are truly interested in one theory in question, we most likely won’t have the mind to look up more information on what we learned in the video. When fact checking a conspiracy theory on a verifiable website, there will most likely be facts missing from the video that do indeed add a disbelief factor.
Many popular conspiracy theories have evidence that instill a feeling of shock in you. Evidence that makes you question certain things are often used for this effect.
One popular conspiracy theory in question is the Mandela Effect. This theory (named after the misremembering of the time of Nelson Mandela’s death), is a theory explaining the collective misremembering of certain things by stating that some time in the recent past, we all spiraled into a parallel universe.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, this is one of the most widely believed conspiracy theories of all time. Why is this? Well, the glaring “evidence”.
Do you remember the children’s book series following the lives of a family of bears? If you do, what was it called? “The Bearenstein Bears”? If that was what you thought, you’re wrong. The popular children’s book was always called “The Bearenstain Bears”, with an A.
This is one of the countless instances of national misremembering that provides fuel to the “Mandela Effect” theory.
To most people, the idea of a parallel universe is nonsensical, so how is it that so many rational people believe this theory?
Well, the evidence for it is overwhelming to people who have realized they have been thinking of something in the wrong way for who-knows-how-long. Because the evidence is happening right then to the reader or viewer, it’s hard to ignore.
When your favorite YouTuber is making a conspiracy video, they’re trying to sell it to you. They want you, as the viewer, to believe it. So, as said before, they like to discount evidence that could prove their theories to be false.
Without opposing evidence, and evidence being placed right in front of them, it’s hard not to believe even the most ridiculous of theories.
Like all human phenomena, conspiracy theories have a certain psychological explanation.
According to the “Scientific American,” one of the factors that play into the arise in interest towards conspiracy theories is Confirmation bias. This is described as our inclination to add more power to evidence of something we already believe, and how we often ignore any opposing evidence.
Projection is yet another puzzle piece in the conspiracy theory puzzle. This is the belief that those who do believe in conspiracy theories will engage in conspiratorial behaviors. This involves spreading rumors and being quite paranoid about other people. If somebody hears a conspiracy theory from somebody like this, they too are most likely going be put under projection.
(Buckley, Thea. “Why Do Some People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?” Scientific American, www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-some-people-believe-in-conspiracy-theories/.)
According to Herricks High School psychologist (and my father), Steven Shatz, there is one last explanation as to why so many people believe conspiracy theories. This is the human instinct of giving everything we can’t explain some sort reasoning. As humans, it’s hard for us to think that things happen for no reason. In response to this, people make theories about the unexplained that gain huge followings.
Now that you know why you believe in conspiracy theories, do you still think they’re true? Is the FBI really hacked into our cameras? Are our world leaders really a cult of lizards? These theories will probably remain a mystery for quite a while. Whether a theory is something that could actually be happening, or a ridiculous claim made solely for the shock factor, there will always be believers. The question is, are you one of them?