As a child, I enjoyed watching YouTube videos about aliens being held in Area 51 or watching the “Men in Black” movies. Now seeing the growth of dangerous conspiracy theories like Q’Anon makes me wonder how some people can blindly believe in something that has been disproven over and over again. As much as these theories are entertaining to explore, one must not forget reality.
Scrolling through my Facebook page liking and commenting on posts of my baby cousins and distant relatives, I am often bombarded with infographics claiming that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election or other typical Q’Anon claims.
One post reads “20,000 troops in D.C. for inauguration said to not be enough to stop Trump’s Battlemech,” along with a photo of army helicopters swarming the Washington Monument. Trump is seated within a Transformer-like military vehicle with a manic laugh on his face. The post suggests in a satirical manner that nothing can stop the wrath of Trump and his followers.
Although a funny image, this same content is reshared enough that some Trump-supporters believe the election was stolen and that violence is the only way to reclaim the country.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw an increase in far-right political memes reshared by the family I follow. As the 2020 election arrived in November the sharing of false information went up exponentially, memes turned into paragraph-long rants about how the Democratic Party stole the election. Family members I follow on Facebook were tricked to believe that if Trump didn’t win the presidential election that there was fraud.
After the failed insurrection attempt by angry Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, I saw fewer posts about the so-called fraud election but new posts claiming that Antifa were the ones that stormed the Capitol. Commenting on their posts to help disprove their false claims was no help. Neither research nor reason could not pull them out of their false reality.
Commenting seems to frustrate them more than silence, so I moved on to report their false posts to the social media app, as a last attempt to hope it wouldn’t be reshared again. Finding some success now that some of their posts have a warning sign about false information, I remain irritated with their unwillingness to critically think. There are more reshares on these posts than likes or comments, suggesting that supporters of these conspiracy theories are simply just copying and pasting what they read.
There is no simple answer as to how we can help our family and friends trapped in these conspiracy theories to open their eyes, but we can be there when they do. If you see a social media post that looks fishy and has been disproven, flag and report it. Be there to dispel the myths. It is the least we can do.