A couple of weeks ago I was at work consoling one of my colleagues. Nothing had happened – yet. The date was the 20th December 2012, and she had worked herself to tears, convinced that the world was going to end the following day. She wasn’t the only one though, thousands of other people across the world were preparing for the worst. I felt like I was alone in a world full of people gone mad, but even I had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind – what if?
This supposed ‘apocalypse’ had its roots in the Mayans; according to some, the end of their long count calendar marks the end of days. Whilst there were no apocalyptic predictions made by the Mayans themselves regarding the end of their calendar the ‘end of times’ rumour spread around the world . No one could quite agree on how the end of the world was going to come about; extreme solar flares, tsunamis, disease – It looked like we were in for a tough few days.
Unsurprisingly the day passed without anything particularly noticeable happening. People died and people were born, and the Mayans had nothing to do with it. The 21st of December wasn’t the first apocalypse that’s been predicted in the past few hundred years though. On 31st December 1999 people waited with bated breath to see if Nostradamus’ end of the world prediction for the new millennium became a reality.
There has always been a big interest in these supposed apocalypses but this was the first time a prophecy has gained so much worldwide attention, it had turned into a global phenomenon. With the rise of social media it’s not surprising that apocalyptic rumours spread wide and fast. A rumour can start in America and be a talking point in England minutes later. With social networking abuzz with the rumours it seemed like latching on to the idea of the apocalypse had become nothing more than a trend to follow. Helped along by social media, people started to buy into the idea of the upcoming apocalypse. Across the world people were getting ready for the worst; for example in Russia people had started to stockpile candles, salt and torches. The sale of ‘end of the world’ bunkers in America went through the roof. In Şirince in Turkey, hotels were booked out amid rumours that it was one of the only places to be left standing. End of the world parties sold out across the globe. The end of the world had become commercialised.
Why is it that we latch onto these rumours so willingly? People not only believe in them, but they buy into them as well. When we look at the portrayal of apocalypses in the media they rarely seem overly scary or dangerous, if anything they look exciting. Could it be possible that the end of the world has become ‘cool’? Apocalyptic discussions among friends are the norm nowadays; it’s amazing how fast a boring lecture can go once you start discussing the best route to take from Lancaster to save both of your families. It seems like what people want from the apocalypse is not the end of the world as we know it, but the adventure of living through it and coming out of the other side unscathed. Regardless of why or how we want the end of the world to come about, it is always going to be something that people buy into and without a doubt another apocalypse rumour will be ready to rear its head within a couple of months.