I know what you're thinking... "Yeah right, there's no way there are any EX flat earthers out there..." I had the same thought when I first saw the Reddit thread I'm about to share with you. But it turns out, there are - and they're much more willing to speak than people might think.
Reddit user blc_abc asked:
Surprisingly, quite a few people spoke up and it was fascinating and kind of sad to get the inside scoop on why people were open to the ideas. What we found interesting were that there were a few common threads that kept popping up - a lack of education, the need to feel a connection to a community/part of something, and plain old ego really factored in for several folks.
Buckle up, we're about to go for a ride.
Maturity And Critical Thinking
I used to believe that earth was flat. Basically I was into other conspiracies like 9/11 and the Illuminati and I just went down the rabbit hole of conspiracies and became a flat earther. I watched a lot of Eric Dubay and Jeranism to confirm my beliefs. Most people thought it was a joke but I believed it and earned a reputation at my high school. Looking back I regret it pretty bad since it was really cringey. They even put me in the school year book for it so it's there forever.
I got out of it my just becoming more mature and thinking more critically. I also became close with my physics teacher since we have similar interests and that combined with maturity got me out of the mentality. The worst part was everyone thinks I was doing it for attention when I actually believed it. I basically destroyed my reputation in my hometown. It's not a big deal tho since I'm leaving and it's one of the reasons why I'm abandoning my childhood life.
Memes To The Rescue
First I saw the proofs. I believed them. Then these flat earth memes made me understand these proofs are sh*t. So I don't believe in that anymore. I'm thankful to memes for this.
School Failed MeGiphy
I used to believe that the moon landing was a hoax and that 9/11 was an inside job. I was young and naive. School had pretty much failed me. It didn't help anyone build critical thinking skills. It just taught us "this is this. that is that" but didn't teach us why this is this and how we know that is that.
Anyway. I was (and am) a very curious person. I love learning. When things like wikipedia and youtube became popular and science related contents started becoming available, I consumed them voraciously. I started to understand the scientific method. I learned why evidence and data are important. I took online courses. In those courses I learned about the peer review system, I learned physics, statistics, economics, logic, behavioral psychology, and social psychology.
Basically, I got all the tools to challenge my old beliefs. I picked them apart. I started debating in my own mind various topics and discarded anything that didn't hold up to my scientific scrutiny - including those conspiracy theories.
Dad's Trip To China
Not me, but my dad.
He is bipolar (same as me, but with more severe mania) and during a manic episode a few years ago he got really into conspiracy theories. He was smoking a lot of pot, staying up til 4 in the morning getting messages from 'God', and watching YouTube videos. He would believe anything on YouTube. He started obsessing over the sun and moon. He would constantly take pictures of them and go on long rants about how the sun doesn't really set in the West and it's revolving around the Earth and how the moon always looks the same so it must be sitting still in the sky, not rotating.
Eventually this turned into believing that the moon landing was faked, the earth is flat (and the center of the universe), the sun and other planets revolve around the earth, and the earth has a huge dome around it that keeps people from exiting the atmosphere into space.
Every single family gathering he would bring this up and go on LONG (multiple hours) rants about it to anyone who would even pretend to listen. He convinced a couple of his sisters but most of the family just dismissed it as crazy uncle stuff.
He knew I didn't believe him and so he would corner me all the time trying to get me to argue with him or watch some of his (again, multiple hours long) YouTube videos.
The thing that changed his mind? He went on a trip to China. On the plane, there were screens in front of him that showed the trajectory and route they were taking. On the way to China, he saw that the route they took (which took about 15 hours) matched up with his flat earth theory — if the earth was round, they would have just flown over the ocean to cut 3 hours out of the trip, or something. But because they took the 'longer' way (which my dad believed was actually the shortest way, going by the flat earth map) this proved that the earth was flat.
However, on the way home, the plane took the ocean route and made the trip in 12 hours. Should have been impossible, according to my dad. That opened his eyes and he started to fact check some of the bogus math that had been spouted at him on YouTube.
He still believes some of the conspiracy theories, but he picks and chooses which ones he believes. Like, he still thinks the moon landing was faked, but he believes that we've sent unmanned rockets to the moon (so there's no dome around the earth).
He still watches YouTube videos almost constantly. He's big into James White and all that.
I really dove into it a few months back. I think the thing that gets people is the idea of a flat earth would mean a higher power or "creation" of the flatness. Lots of people discussed the something bigger and feeling that this meant they really had a purpose.
Not me, but a family member. They're still a flat-Earther, so I can only answer the first half of the question. They've explained to me that the Bible states that the Earth is flat, not round, in its own words in multiple parts of the book (as if the Bible is a book of cold, hard facts).
Then, the most compelling reason that they think to believe the Earth is flat is that the higher-ups of the world have deceived us and want us to believe the Earth is round. The Earth being round would point to the fact that there is no God because the Earth being round and being part of a solar system can be explained by science.
Basically, if we have proof that there is a God (flat Earth), we won't abide by the rules of the higher ups of the world anymore, since we have God's rules to follow.
Authoritative Sexy VoiceGiphy
I'm not proud of this, but some time ago I was young, and wanted to see a greater truth than the whole world being one giant shopping mall. I went on a Youtube binge. You know how some of those Youtubers have those authoritative sexy voices? Well that's how I was hooked on Flat Earth, aaaaand about 5 seconds later I realized it's bullsh*t, because if you use your brain it's clear as f*ck that it's bullsh*t.
People that make fun of conspiracy theories commit small conspiracies every day in their daily life. They talk about friends behind their back and make plans to gain this or that through deceit and trickery yet they don't understand that those with money and clout are just like them, only they operate within their means on a larger scale. If you're a petty small person that uses your clout in a social situation to conspire to get what is best for you, what makes you think the elite of this world are any different from you?
So yeah, I'm into some conspiracy theories. I find it odd when you go down the rabbit hole all you find is lizard people and flat earth. I agree with many posters here that a lot of it is about ego and having secret knowledge, but I also see a lot of ego on the other side making fun of people who believe in conspiracies.
I listened and spent way too much time looking into the flat earth (Probably about 10 hours of earnest study over the course of a month.) and found it to be implausible and not believable. I think what it comes down to is when you when you realize how much the average person is and has been deceived, it's difficult to believe anything without testing it yourself, and those in the flat earth movement take advantage of that disbelief and distrust in the system.
I think the loony conspiracy theories like lizard people and flat earth are there to stigmatize and label people who might tell you the truth about something. Personally I'm willing to listen to any intelligent person who has a reasoned belief. Partly because I want to know why they believe it, and because some things at first seemed crazy to me and then evidence was provided that supported it. Essentially I'll give anybody the benefit of the doubt.
I think the rabid arrogant flat earthers talking down to you about how water falls off of a ball instead of sticking to it that everybody props up and makes fun of are the obnoxious loud minority that are there to make it easy for you to dismiss the movement. I think there are quiet, intelligent folks who just don't trust anything the majority believes anymore because they feel they've been lied to about everything.
If the UN map looks like a flat earth map and flight paths are screwy (due to cost of landing in certain countries I believe) its enough for them to want to hang on and reserve judgment. It's a rebellion against too much propaganda and too many pundits telling everybody what they should think and what they should believe. Ultimately for many its a crutch for some sort of other belief they want to hold that they feel is being taken from them.
I used to be really into conspiracy theories and a big part of the hook that people don't see is that it's an ego trip. You think you know things that others don't and it makes you feel smarter, special or superior. It makes you feel good to feed the ego. It takes a bit of self reflection and a slice of humble pie to figure out your motivations for believing something.
Ego And The Cult
I just watched "Behind the Curve" on Netflix and I have realized how true this ego theory is!! The main guy in it, Mark Sargent, really just seems to love the attention and fame that comes with being a flat earther. He seems to thrive more on finding his sort of tribe and having people fawn over him than any actual flat earth theory.
I've tried to entertain the idea of flat earth before but if you go to the Flat Earth Society website and check the "Frequently asked questions" section...it just.....I can't. I can't even with these people. It lacks all reasoning. They disregard traditional scientific methods and rely solely on what they can observe with their senses (look up Zetecism). This essentially means they form a question and immediately set to experimenting. No theory or forethought and take the results as irrefutable fact.
It's honestly a lot like a cult.
Tons of people in cults don't really believe in them. It provides them a community of people that accept them, makes them feel exclusive and know something that other people don't, tells them they are great for believing these things, etc.
Granted, flat earth is a little different than your typical run of the mill religious cult. But I think that the motivations for some of it's believers are very similar.
I think Mark even said at one point in that documentary something about how even if he stopped believing in Flat Earth, he'd probably just keep saying that he did anyway. In a way I feel for them, it is kinda like leaving a cult. Once you're all in like that, all of your friends and support group is the community.
As for what they talk about, most of what I've heard is less about Flat Earth itself, and more about the conspiracy to cover it up. In that way, they have a lot in common with the wider world of conspiracy theories. Once you start to believe these things, you very quickly have to ask what's keeping more people from the truth. The more far out the idea, the more expansive the cover up must be.