2012 and the apocalyptic predictions regarding it is big enough that even my local news station did a piece on it (or rather, syndicated someone else’s piece, but whatever). Needless to say, nothing very new or original was added to the general idea that the Mayan calendar ends in December 2012, thus creating a prediction for the apocalypse, etc, etc.
However, one individual they talked to made an interesting comment: beliefs and ideas like this get more attention and spread to a wider audience in today’s world where information flies so quickly, wirelessly even. Thus, because of the proliferation of information (and misinformation) and the ease of access thereof, it’s possibly more likely to spread and find belief in these predictions.
Why is this so interesting, other than people are able to spread whatever random thought they have in their head to so many others (um, think blogs even)?
Think about all those predictions that have been going on for millennium. And all the nutballs that have proliferated throughout time (yes, you know at least some of them were just nutballs). So say you have “Bob” who lives in medieval England, and he says the world is going to end next Tuesday. He can scream it at the top of his lungs, and probably most of the people in his village will hear his message. If he really wants to – and exerts a great deal of effort – he can probably spread that message to the next few villages in person. If he’s literate, perhaps he could create posters or some other kind of media that the few other literate folks could pass on. But the transmission of this information is slow and really, most people would have no idea come next Tuesday (or Wednesday) that the world was supposed to end unless it did.
Fast forward to the nineteenth century, when Bob’s ancestor lives (yes, I guess he convinced someone to marry him and have kids, though I’m personally thinking that was before the “great prediction”). There is greater literacy now, and greater ease of transportation, so if this Bob – who also believes the apocalypse is nigh – utilized all this to his advantage, he might be able to conceivably spread the message throughout the entire country, maybe even into Europe, maybe even to North America if there was enough time. But his numbers are still limited by time, his own access to resources, the interest in his information (which will determine if his message will be carried on if not passed on directly by him), and language barriers.
Now we arrive in our present time when still yet another Bob (no, I can’t explain why their line wouldn’t have just died out either), is yet again protesting the apocalypse is on our doorstep. Now, he could go old-school and wear a placard on the street corner, but modern doomsayers are more savvy than that – he’s probably got his own website, twitter account, spam emails, maybe even attracts the attention of a local news media when his YouTube video goes viral. His message is forwarded by others because now it takes nothing more than a push of a button to open an email, visit a website, or turn on the TV. And the more people start wondering if Bob’s right, the more the message is proliferated, and suddenly there are many convinced the apocalypse IS coming.
It doesn’t matter if it’s still a nutball named Bob: his message is suddenly “The Truth.” Huh. Kind of makes you want to shut off the TV and internet, doesn’t it?
Thanks for reading, and have a hopefully nutball-free week.