Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner in South Africa for nearly 30 years before he died in jail, becoming a martyr and global icon of resistance to racial oppression.
Is that how you remember that part of world history? Because if it is, you are part of the collective false memory known as “The Mandela Effect.” In reality, the social rights activist spent 27 years in prison before he was released in 1990. He didn’t die until much later, in 2013.
Why do so many remember this history differently? While it may just be that millions of people are all remembering the same historical moment wrongly in the same way, another theory exists: alternate realities. Some people believe when one timeline ends, all the people living in it before utter global destruction are mixed into a new timeline. This creates a paradox where large groups of people have different memories of the same event because they happened in slightly different ways in different realities that have now merged.
I first learned about the Mandela Effect when Britney Spears’ conservatorship was in the news. I was in my senior year of high school when her “Baby One More Time” song was popular. For the next 21 years, I distinctly remembered her iconic music video outfit, including pink pom-poms in her hair, a plaid schoolgirl skirt, and a white shirt tied to reveal her famously flat stomach. But in 2021, the video went around the social media circuit once more, and I was shocked. She had a pink pom on her pen, and her skirt was plain black. That is NOT how I remember it! I wasn’t the only one. In the comments section, there was a fierce debate being waged between those who remembered it as I did and those who claimed she had always worn a black skirt. Was I moved from one reality to another at some point without noticing?