Column: Unravelling the truth behind conspiracy theories

Sydney Kierzek, Columnist

Although some might indulge in YouTube or Wikipedia rabbit-holes as nothing more than a silly afterthought, a way to fill some time on a rainy day, conspiracy theories are psychologically dangerous and are a fundamental hazard to modern society. 

Conspiracy theories likely made their debut with humanity’s formation of society, it sure feels like they’ve skyrocketed in the past few centuries in response to technological advancements and, more recently, ease of communication. Conspiracy theories are usually defined as beliefs that Illuminati-like powerful groups that control the world in secret, but it’s been argued that they could also be any theory that refutes a conclusion made by scientific reasoning. 

See Alex Jones and Joe Rogan. A podcast and a knack for discussing conspiracies is how someone goes from a laid-off radio host or a UFC commentator to making hundreds of millions and off-the-charts fanbases. Joe Rogan was the no. 1 podcaster on Spotify in 2021 with over 11 million listens an each episode. Perhaps what makes this pothead lunatic so addictive has to do less with his personality and more about the psychology behind the topics of his content.

At, between the pages “Porn Addiction” and “Gambling Addiction” is the article “Conspiracy Theory Addiction,” by activist Ginni Correa. According to Correa, the creation or belief in a theory “emerges from the need for the human brain to find patterns,” and that “ new research also shows that people with certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem, are more likely to have a conspiracy theory addiction.”

Growing up in a social media-based, perfection-obsessed generation, it’s easy to imagine the outlook of college students. Whether it’s the need for understanding, control or to simply feel special, conspiracy theories may provide a sensation of relief for individuals lacking in some area of identity.

However, the theories come with their own psychological risks, such as feelings of confusion, isolation and loneliness.

“The cycle of addiction becomes destructive as negative feelings contribute to the belief in conspiracies and the belief in conspiracies results in negative feelings,” Correa wrote. “Conspiracy theory addiction not only causes a cycle of distrust but it discourages people from participating in their social worlds. Someone who lacks a sense of control may stop viewing themselves as a valuable contributor to society.”

It might be appropriate to let conspiracies question personal theories or methods. It’s not, however, safe to become so engrossed that we cease questioning entirely and become unable to recognize realities. 

Then there are those who take it upon themselves to act in response to their beliefs in conspiracy. In spring 2020, over 77 cell towers were destroyed in arson attacks that “officials and wireless companies say are fueled by groundless conspiracy theories linking new 5G mobile networks and the coronavirus pandemic.”

One vandalized tower was left with a note. “Nobody wants cancer & covid19 (sic). Stop trying to make it happen or every pole and mobile store will end up like this one,” the note read.

This string of arsons caused outrage in the companies and service providers it impacted, as well as the people who relied on those necessary forms of Internet connection during the lockdowns of the pandemic. It affected millions, sparked by a conspiracy theory-turned movement. 

Conspiracy theories are often used as a means of promoting or demoting targeted beliefs. Written by lead Climate Change Communications staff from Bristol and Harvard Universities, “America Misled” is a publication dedicated to revealing the methods in which the fossil fuel industry “polluted the information landscape.”

“The strategy, tactics, infrastructure and rhetorical arguments and techniques used by fossil fuel interests to challenge the scientific evidence of climate change—including cherry picking, fake experts and conspiracy theories,” according to

Despite the knowledge of how harmful conspiracy theories are, corporations are feeding them to the public through news and social media. How can people be functioning, contributing members of society when they’re, through conspiracy theories, being led astray from scientific reasoning?

Not only are conspiracy theories controlling people psychologically, sometimes resulting in acts of violence, corporations can take advantage of this power to influence the masses. Not all theories and corporations can or will be exposed. The next time you decide to fall down a conspiracy rabbit hole, do so with a range of caution — perhaps with a proper harness or safety line.