TikTok users share examples of chilling consequences through history in butterfly effect trend

TikTok’s latest obsession is chaos theory but it’s a little less complicated than it sounds.

People are using the butterfly effect to make connections between personal and pop culture events. They’re looking at how one person’s choice, whether they’re a celebrity or their parent, can lead to a series of unintended consequences. It’s actually kind of fascinating. 

What is the butterfly effect? 

The butterfly effect is a feature of chaos theory which is the mathematical study of the patterns and laws that create seemingly random events. In the butterfly effect, one small change can trigger a chain of events that can cause a larger change at a later time. 

The concept was popularized by a 2004 movie

Ashton Kutcher starred in the 2004 sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect. In the movie the protagonist travels back in time, making small changes in hopes of altering his present. But of course, there are unforeseen consequences. The popularity of the film made the theory ubiquitous with the general public.

Examples of the butterfly effect trend on TikTok

On TikTok, people are using the butterfly effect theory to connect world events and moments in pop culture. 

The user @brandofbeans posited that without the O.J. Simpson trial there would be no Reputation album by Taylor Swift. 

The idea here is that if there was no O.J. Simpson trial, one of Simpson’s lawyers, Robert Kardashian would not have become famous. This would have made it harder for his wife Kris Jenner and daughters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, to score a reality show. If Kim weren’t famous, she probably never would have married Kanye West. Therefore, she never would have revealed the infamous voicemails that exposed Swift as a liar in her feud with the rapper. Thus, Swift never would have made Reputation in response to the backlash. 

TikToker @journey.isnt.sad connected My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way’s witnessing of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to 50 Shades of Grey. 

An aspirational comic artist, Way was interning at Cartoon Network in New York City when he witnessed the 9/11 attacks firsthand. It changed his views on the world and he wrote the My Chemical Romance’s first song “Skylines and Turnstiles.” When Stephenie Meyer was thinking up the male protagonist, Edward Cullen, in Twilight she referenced Gerard Way. E.L. James would later write 50 Shades of Grey, which started out as Twilight fanfiction. 

Other people shared their personal butterfly effect stories — and they don’t always fill in the blanks

When @nephyruss received a used iPad 10 years ago she had no idea it would lead to gamer Karl Jacobs following them on Twitter


Ignore the bad transition I was too lazy to film it again #DADMOVES #twotrucks #butterflyeffect #harrypotter

♬ two trucks circa 2012 – sara !!!

Somehow @_ollivander connected his grandfather being a heavy smoker to him having the name (Ollivander) of an “old wizard.” 

Singer Sophie Holohan wrote a song about the butterfly effect. The lyrics detail the moment a wing of butterfly brushed against her cheek, causing her to bump into what would become her one true love. 

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