Conspiracy Mindsets – what draws you in?

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Why are conspiracy theories so alluring? There are entire Youtube channels, TikTok accounts and blogs dedicated to them, feeding our curiosity for the ‘unknown’, and there are several factors that lead us to subscribe to them. We’ve all been drawn in by certain theories, whether it’s because we find them amusing, or consider them to be plausible, but with the uptick in misinformation and fake news it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish fact from opinion. 

We all have access to an abundance of knowledge in our pockets, and finding the ‘truth’ is more difficult than ever. A study by Amy Watson shows that 70% of people use social media as a source of news, and this proves concerning since anyone can share information on these platforms, so misinformation can spread quickly due to the high number of social media users.

Be aware of your sources

Whether we believe a conspiracy theory or not can often depend on who is feeding us the information. With the rise of Youtube and influencers, we have a wide range of people we can choose to listen to, and our choice is sometimes based on their popularity rather than their propensity for spreading the truth. Creators such as Alex Jones and Joe Rogan have a reputation for sharing false and harmful information, and their large audiences consume and continue to perpetuate these values, which can sometimes harm the wider public. Jones and Rogan feed on the paranoia of individuals to give their theories traction. According to the BBC, 47% of people said they trusted social media platforms to give them truthful news, alluding to a rising distrust towards news outlets, brands, and authority figures.

Trust issues?

People have always had a distrust for authority, but due to the current state of the world, (wars, austerity, the pandemic), it feels like this distrust is higher than ever. The isolation caused by the pandemic led to people feeling fearful and alone, creating a dependency to seek out groups who share our beliefs. Thus, conspiracy theories arose that governments and people of authority created the virus, or at least neglected to protect people from it. According to The Guardian, at least a quarter of people in the UK believe Covid was a hoax, and YouGov report that two thirds of America believe it was created in a lab. One of the reasons people gravitate towards such theories is that they can’t comprehend the complexities and magnitude of the effects of the virus, and therefore they search for a more simple and cohesive answer.

Life is tough

Some of us invest in conspiracy theories as a form of escapism from our real life problems. These theories tend to be fairly harmless and sometimes amusing. For most of us, conspiracy theories don’t play a big part in our lives, but instead feed our curiosity for the unknown and the potential that we’re not alone in the universe. YouGov reports that half of Britons believe in aliens, and 7% claim to have seen them. UFO theorists go as far as to suggest that Area 51 is housing aliens, and that the government is hiding it from us. Famously, in 2019 an event called “They Can’t Stop All of Us” took place where thousands of people surrounded Area 51 in an attempt to search for aliens. Even ‘fun’ conspiracy theories can lead to a public uprising, giving them more power and attention.

Challenging our humanity

Other conspiracy theories can be much darker. Individuals can become fixated and obsessed with theories that are harmful to certain groups. For example, The Independent shared a survey that suggests one in 10 Americans believe the Holocaust never happened, and 23% believe it was a myth or the number of those murdered were exaggerated. These numbers can be attributed to lack of education, widespread misinformation, and antisemitism. These theories are insulting and reductive to the communities that have suffered and are still suffering from repercussions of the genocide. They also prevent us from being able to learn from history to prevent it from happening again, as demonstrated in the current genocide in Palestine. Theories like these exhibit how damaging the spread of misinformation can be.

So what should we believe? There are countless conspiracy theories on a variety of subjects, but all should be viewed with an air of scepticism. Some theories are created purely to promote hateful views, and will only gain traction when they are given our attention. It’s important to assess sources of news before reading them as fact, and to evaluate whether information is fact or opinion, since anyone can post their views on the internet. Taking the time to fact-check is essential to have a healthy and well-rounded outlook on the information we are absorbing. Stay safe out there!

If you feel being drawn to conspiracy theories is part of your mental health makeup and wish to discuss it with us then complete one of our contact forms for an in depth confidential discussion.

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