Social isolation, difficult economic circumstances + poor mental health, combined with a lack of purpose, makes you vulnerable.
The added drip, drip, drip of social media + an unchecked news feed algorithm can be a recipe for alienation + radicalisation.
When it happens with friends, family + acquaintances, it’s like seeing someone succumb to an addiction.
Look, as a professional psychic I’m familiar with my character + profession being dismissed + ridiculed by science, academia + the medical establishment.
So, I know how important it is to remain curious about accepted norms and societal ‘truths’. To question and not to take all things at face value.
However, when personal difficulties turn chronic + seemingly unsolvable, conspiracy theories – those that offer a simple explanation, a common enemy and a glimmer of hope – become highly seductive.
Often, there’s a grain of truth in many of these ideas.
Yet, the problem is that many are inflated by biased personal opinions, heresay, rumour and flimsy evidence. They have mass appeal due to a psychological phenomenon known as ‘splitting’.
Splitting is whereby the primitive part of our brain breaks complexity down into a black and white solution.
This = all good.
That = all bad.
You can see it played out and released in football matches, sports and most recently politics.
Unfortunately, the truth is usually much more complex + overwhelming, and global problems less easy to resolve, individually or collectively.
Conspiracy theories unite people against a common enemy (the ‘all bad’). They give people a sense of belonging, purpose, identity and psychological relief.
They can boost self-esteem, as the ego is reassured by knowing ‘the secret’ and being part of a possible solution (the ‘all good’).
Unfortunately, I’ve lost as many people to conspiracy theories as I have to Covid19.
The consequences for our societies have become especially clear in the last few days, evidenced by the storming of the Capitol in the US.
Yet, the consequences for individuals can be equally devastating: increased economic hardship, mental + emotional deterioration, indifference about everyday matters + complete lack of motivation to look at, seek help for or otherwise deal with their own very real problems.
Conspiracy theories that start as a distraction can become all-consuming. They can pull you down rabbit holes into catacalysmic story-scapes of mythic villains and heroes, better than any book or movie. These plots and sub-plots demand more and more of your time + attention, in order to keep abreast of the latest opinions + developments online. The latter is carefully curated and served to you through digital media, re-enforcing your beliefs until a theory becomes your religion.
GUIDELINES + TIPS:
• Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix, so you understand the context and wider forces at play.
• Check your sources: is a ‘fact’ scientifically validated or reported by a trusted source?
• Avoid the cult of ‘opinion media’: opinions are cheap – just because someone confidently gobs-off on YouTube or Facebook, it doesn’t mean they have any greater access to truth.
• If you feel low, anxious or isolated, get support – access low cost therapy or talk to someone.
• Go on a media detox – if the prospect of a week or two without social media or your favourite news channel seems tough, then consider whether that’s a sign of an early stage addiction [*]
I still haven’t worked out the best way to help people at risk, i.e. to intervene or support from a distance, but this brilliant graphic – The Conspiracy Chart from Abbie Richards – helps highlight the slippery slope and brings more awareness.
[* This is possible despite COVID19. I still do it.]
Article copyright Amy Garner 2021.