Andover Students Respond to “Judgment Day” With Friends, Family and Social Media

The Class of 2011 can breathe a sigh of relief. World-wide attention to “Judgment Day,” a theory that the apocalyptic end of the World would begin on May 21, proved false—the world will keep turning, and the Class of 2011 will still receive their diplomas in less than a week (for now). The end-times-prediction, first developed by American Christian radio host Harold Camping stated that “Judgment Day” would occur on May 21, 2011. As the ominous day loomed overhead, some Phillips Academy students braced themselves for impending “Rapture” while others joked about the Judgment Day theory. Groups on campus gathered to discuss reactions to Judgment Day following the wake of the non-event. Camerin Stoldt ’12, Co-President of Darsana, planned a club meeting on the day after Judgment Day, May 22, to discuss the effect of “Judgment Day” on humans’ actions and goals. “Some of the things we talk about are what influences our choices, and one of the things I wanted to touch on was when people hear about the world ending, it often facilitates one or two [reactions from people]. I often find that people think to ‘do good’ really quickly so they are saved or to get everything they ever wanted to do out of the way,” said Stoldt. Several students said they found out about the Judgment Day phenomenon via the Internet, mirroring trends in the real world. Kerry Lanzo ’11 said, “I heard about [The Rapture] a few days beforehand. Especially living at Andover, I do not have a lot of devoutly Christian friends.” “I feel like people at home were talking more about [the approaching Judgment Day] than people on campus because people [at Andover] are really stressed out right now,” said Jing Qu ’13. Qu said she followed the Rapture Day developments via her Twitter feed. “Overall, it seemed like it was just another hyped thing. It was kind of like another Rebecca Black phenomenon. People weren’t taking it seriously,” said Qu. “One of my friends sent out a mass text and invited me to an end of the world bash. Some of the more serious tweets [from people outside of the PA community] were denouncing it because they said that the Bible does not state an actual date,” she continued. In the real world, too, much of the Judgment Day activity happened online. Blogs, operated by the Huffington Post and AOL Media all claimed to report on the Judgment Day developments in real time. Other media outlets promised real time updates on Judgment Day activity via Twitter. The theory itself gained traction after Google Trends announced it was the second, and later first, most searched query through the site engine. Some of the students who knew about the prediction believed that the entire theory was fabricated. “I think it was a pathetic cry of attention from a hopeless and utterly corrupt maniac,” said Adele Bernhard’14. In the wake of Judgment Day, Camping adjusted his end of the world prediction. He claimed that he miscalculated the date and reset the proposed Rapture for October 21, 2011. Some Phillips Academy students have turned the delayed prediction of “The Rapture” into a joke. Lanzo also remembers seeing Facebook posts mocking the decision to move the date. “There was [a post] that said, ‘Hi guys sorry big mistake. Rapture day is actually October 21. I’m only five months off,’” said Lanzo.