Has lockdown and social isolation changed our paranormal beliefs?

23rd March 2021. Reading Time: 10 minutes General. 578 page views. 0 comments.

Did isolation during 2020, a plethora of paranormal content at our fingertips, and a change in how we consume our information change our belief in the paranormal?

2020 was a year like no other.  No matter where you are in the world, some part of your 2020 was largely impacted by COVID19.  For many, it is still heavily impacting your daily life.  While some parts of the World have reached what we call a 'COVID Normal', others are still in partial or full lockdowns.  Some people have been able to go out and enjoy and investigate the paranormal, while others still cannot.  It has meant we have had to find other ways to indulge in our favourite hobbies.  For myself, I bought A LOT of books and downloaded a lot of historical archives to read.  I also found that there was no shortage of information being shared and presented through social media.

One of the positives that I personally have stated on many occasions is that I believe the amount of information we have access to has increased immensely.  For many in the paranormal field, especially in countries far away like myself here in Australia, I don't often to get see a lot of the talks that are held at paranormal conventions.  I don't get to participate in specified study days or discussions as they are happening over the other side of the World.  To keep the World turning so to speak, a large part of the paranormal community shifted online.  People who wouldn't normally engage much on social media were suddenly recording videos or writing up articles about their research that is usually reserved for these conventions or talks.  Many were conducting interviews so that they had a way to get their research out there.  More than ever we had a plethora of information at our fingertips from a range of different people within the paranormal.  I suppose in some ways it is a little bit of a double-edged sword.  While it meant that anyone was able to put their information and research out there, it means 'anyone' can put information out there and not all of it is credible. 

Anyone can come out and claim they have been in the paranormal field for X amount of years.  As an unregulated field, there are really no official credentials to even be able to check.  A lot of what we talk about as paranormal investigators is based on our own thoughts and experiences.  Things that we have learnt and how we do things.  When it comes to presenting research, it can be easily copied, pasted and twisted to suit the narrative that a person is trying to spin.  I found myself on the end of this recently where I found my name quote in an article written overseas.  They had taken a small paragraph of something I had written on one of my articles, and they quoted me as saying it, but it was spun in a way to come across in the exact opposite of what I was intending.  It was taken completely out of context but inserted in a way that made sense in their article to get their point across.  As someone that tries very hard to sit on the fence when I present research so people can make up their own mind, I wasn't thrilled.  I see it happen a lot and maybe I have unknowingly done it too.  Maybe I have posted a quote from someone's research or a quote they are famous for saying and the way I have presented it in my article has come across in a different way to how they have intended it.  We are all bias to an extent, whether we care to admit it or not.  Even if we don't mean to be.

One of the popular things for us to do during isolation has been to indulge in a Netflix Binge.  Tiger King for example was a Worldwide Phenomenon.  The larger-than-life character of Joe Exotic was so entertaining that people began to campaign for him to be let out of Prison.  We seemed to forget about all of the Animal laws he broke and the fact he paid someone to kill his mortal enemy.  It is because the documentary was spun in a way to make you sympathize with him.  You didn't care so much about that, you just wanted to be entertained.  I know I was sucked into Making a Murderer for a very long time!  I spoke about this very point a few weeks ago about the Cecil documentary.  It was so well done and really showed exactly the point I am trying to get across.  People can put a spin on anything to push their own agendas and beliefs.  They may not be aware they are doing it, but when you believe in something or think of something in a certain way, that is going to come through in your creative work as well.  In short, things can be omitted and things can be edited or written in a way to compliment the creator's arguement.

Check out my article Web sleuthing & the paranormal

Did COVID 19 change the way we view the paranormal?

One of the biggest things I have noticed a shift in coming out of COVID19 particularly here in Australia has been a realization of the bias in Media reporting.  Further than that, more than ever in this country, we also saw a large population of people actively not just question and distrust the Government, but begin to actively try and rebel against it.  Now, this is where I need to point out that this post is not a political one and I don't want to see any comments about a 'fake pandemic' or calling people 'sheep!'.  The comments will be removed. 

If anything it is an example of just how much people have been willing to jump onto what a study has referred to as 'pseudoscientific beliefs'.  A lot of people suddenly had spiritual beliefs whereas before they had not either indulged or expressed them.  

In July 2020, an experimental study was published to question "Do the levels related to the psychotic phenotype and pseudoscientific beliefs related to the interpretation of information vary before and after social quarantine? "

Taking as a reference the results obtained, it can be concluded that social quarantine increases levels of magical thinking, pseudoscientific beliefs and anomalous perceptions. However, knowing that this research is not purely experimental, if one were to consider why these increases occur, hypothetical inferences should be made related to the sociosanitary characteristics implicit in the quarantine. As already mentioned, these characteristics may be related to psychological and psychopathological variables as well as to other variables associated with communication and access to information. From here, the following is proposed: is it possible that the disintermediation, the acceleration of digitization and the infodemic - especially the latter - can alter the way of interpreting information by the population generating generalized fatigue and a saturation of stimuli? Is it possible that fatigue and saturation are the mediating variables responsible for this increase? If the results of this research indicate that magical thinking has increased, so can false news, disinformation and pseudoscientific information. Then, as some international studies point out, it is possible that disinformation may be another of the causal variables of these increases [57, 58]. It is noted that the previous questions would not be justified if the scores on the Paranoid Experiences scale had not obtained the highest effect size. It is important to stop at this point because this scale warns that the levels of distrust and paranoia are those that have increased the most (with respect to the other psychological indicators evaluated). To the team’s surprise, this increase coincides with the results published by the CAC (Consell de l’Audiovisual de Catalunya) on the increase in disinformation and false news during the quarantine derived from COVID-19 (whose rates reach 80%)

Pseudoscientific beliefs and psychopathological risks increase after COVID-19 social quarantine
Álex Escolà-Gascón,corresponding author Francesc-Xavier Marín, Jordi Rusiñol, and Josep Gallifa

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7391050/

Of course, the above study is referencing the strong shift of people trusting sources that were not credible when it came to information about the pandemic itself.  I however want to look at things from the perspective of the paranormal field.  We found during COVID lockdowns that suddenly we had a lot of time on our hands.  We may have indulged in Netflix, but we also watched a lot of news, a lot of YouTube, and browsed a lot of Facebook.  People tried more and more to put content out to keep not only themselves busy, but keep their followers entertained.  For myself, I tried to do a few videos, I did a lot more articles than usual and just tried to do as much as I could while I had the time.  If you follow the paranormal on social media, you will have found that suddenly your feed was full of a lot of extra paranormal content.  Maybe you did finally have access to these online conferences.  Some of them were absolutely brilliant.  Some of them were just people just having a zoom chat about what the paranormal is for them.  The problem with some of the streams I saw, were people heavily pushing the beliefs of the person running the stream.  Some of it was very heavy religiously backed.  For myself, I am not a religious person so it is not something that resonated with me.  It did it seem however resonate with a lot of people who were 'learning' from this person.  A lot of people found a whole new audience.  In some cases, the information being presented was troublesome.  It invoked fear in people.  I personally don't like when you set 'rules' for people when it comes to the paranormal.  Saying that if you don't close a session a demon will come through and attach to you for example is one of many statements I have heard.  For the inexperienced and those who don't know any better, you are feeding into a fear.  They may be at home and suddenly every bump could be what they feel is a demon when really it is the fridge kicking over.  I think you see the point I am trying to make.  We have to be so careful of the information we are not only putting out there but also the information we consume. 

I feel like the final conclusion made in the study sums it up quite well.

 As a final conclusion, knowing that the states of paranoia were the experiences that increased the most after the social quarantine, it is worth considering the possibility that an excess of information and disinformation in digital media is one of the variables causing the increases observed for generating confusion and preventing the general population from effectively discriminating between credible information sources and pseudoscientific information sources.

In short, particularly in these kinds of areas, do your research from credible peer-reviewed sources and don't trust everything you read because as it turns out, people are especially vulnerable and rightly so.  If you want to publicly use your voice, do it responsibly and understand the power of your words.  There is a difference between saying this is what I believe based on my experiences and belief system compared to this is what will happen to you if you do this.

References

Pseudoscientific beliefs and psychopathological risks increase after COVID-19 social quarantine
Álex Escolà-Gascón,corresponding author Francesc-Xavier Marín, Jordi Rusiñol, and Josep Gallifa

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7391050/

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