Rapture over Rapture

Rapture DefinedRapture, as predicted by Harold Camping, was set to occur Saturday May 21st, 2011. It was to start at 6pm with an enormous earthquake which would then set off a rolling series of devastating earthquakes across the globe each one occurring at 6pm in it’s respective timezone.  Believers would be beamed to heaven, non believers and any survivors would be left to deal with the devastation of the earth until God comes back in October of 2011 to finish the job by destroying the earth entirely. It obviously didn’t happen.

This past weekend I was at an annual getaway with some close girlfriends. We always stay at a lodge with a breathtaking view of Mt. Hood.  As I peered out at this gigantic volcanic mountain I thought, what a great view to have if the world really was going to end. Now I knew the end of the world was not nigh but as I listened to my friends crack rapture jokes throughout the weekend, I had a feeling that in a strange way his prediction was coming true and rapture was happening. Not in the biblical destroy the earth kind of way, but people were experiencing the literal definition of rapture because they had become so captivated with the concept and so enamored with the ridiculousness of it. People could not help finding joy in making fun of the concept and spreading the word.

Foursquare check-ins were occurring for the location rapture as well as pre and post rapture party locations.  Several Facebook pages popped up urging people to be ready to loot after the devastation took place. Several of  the people I follow on Twitter, Instagr.am, and Facebook posted rapture jokes, as did I. But, it was not just social media, traditional media was also very much mired in this topic and running news stories on it. The predictor himself comes from Christian based Family Radio network and he used the reach of their 66 stations worldwide to spread the word and gain followers. Even going so far as to rent billboards across the nation proclaiming rapture and urging people to tune in and become followers.

This was not the first time this man, Harold Camping, had made this type of prediction. He had been wrong before in 1994. But his previous prediction was not nearly as well known as his latest. Mainly because it did not reach the masses. The biggest difference between then and now is social media. Sure in 1994 we had the internet, email and cellphones and there was likely a few online articles about his prediction and perhaps a email forward going around proclaiming Armageddon. However, without social media and mobile technology there was no way for ideas, good or bad, to proliferate so quickly and deeply back then.

If you step back and look what has happened with his prediction, in essence, whether on purpose or not, this was a brilliantly executed social media strategy to bring attention to his idea.  He took his brand and his idea and released it out to the masses without a great deal of cost to himself.  Sure the billboards cost money and the radio show production cost money, but the social media and news media aspect was free advertising for Harold Camping. His idea was one that offered great comedic value to the non-believers, who in this case happened to be the majority, and he capitalized on human nature’s desire to spread the word. With social media channels his prediction took on a life of it’s own and was transported to another existence, the cloud, and his idea rolled across the internet forcefully, much like the earthquakes he had predicted. The one thing you can always count on is that people want to be in on a joke, so if you can find a clever way to incorporate a joke or an idea that induces rapture into your social media strategy your followers, or in this case the non-followers, will do the rest. You can bet people will be tuned in to hear what Harold Camping has to say about his failure.

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