The idea of the multiverse is that we’re all existing in a paper-thin layer of reality that lies on top of another that is nearly identical to our own, with only slight differences, and onwards and outwards to infinity. It’s extremely trendy in pop culture at the moment, inspiring a whole cycle of Marvel movies, award0winners like Everything Everywhere All At Once, and countless self-help gurus.
Folks talk about how they’ve slipped from one timeline into the other, pointing out so-called Mandela Effects like the spelling of the names of brands or cartoon characters, or point out that dramatic world events mean we are living in “the darkest timeline.” Some even claim this is a symptom of the fact that reality is not a multiverse, but a simulation, being debugged and rebooted, which we perceive as “timeline shifts” or “glitches in the Matrix.”
In this video, a woman shares what she views as symptoms of a timeline shift. Technology goes buzzy for a minute. Maybe the radio jumps to a song right in the middle, or the streetlights near you go out. Perhaps you lose time, and when you “come back,” everyone is acting a little bit odd.
What’s going on?
Scientists say the Mandela Effect is just a factor of cognitive bias. If we misremember something it's easier to think that it has changed rather than the fact that the cartoon bears were always called Berenstain or that Nelson Mandela did not, in fact, die in prison.
As for these symptoms described in the video, psychologists even have a word for those moments when you seem to step out of sync with reality. They are called “derealization” and can have any number of causes, from the harmless, like being in an altered mental state due to being half-asleep or meditating; to the more serious, such as drug use, fever, or an episode of ill mental health.
Then again, if we really are all living in a vast simulation, then the program would have to find explanations for that, too.