The apocalypse on Twitter

Theo Meder, Dong Nguyen, Rilana Gravel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There was one trending topic on Twitter in December 2012 that we could have seen coming for a few years now: the New Age prophecy of the End of Times on 21 December 2012—all because some Mayan calendar supposedly ended on this date. For 2 weeks long—a week before the Apocalypse and a week after—we monitored Twitter for Dutch words concerning the End of the World. We caught 52,000 tweets in 2 weeks. When did the stream of rumours peek? How many retweets were involved? Was there much micro-variation? What was the overall content of the tweets? What emotions were expressed in the tweets? How did religious people respond? And finally, how many people confessed they were truly scared because of the prophecy? These are intriguing questions that we can answer by using a few basic computational tools. Although the Apocalypse got a lot of attention in the news media, it turned out most Dutch people on Twitter took the End of Days with a grain of salt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-410
Number of pages13
JournalDigital Scholarship in the Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date31 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


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