Rumors: What Are They And Why Can They Be Dangerous?

Rumors: what are they and why can they be dangerous?

Rumors: We’ve all heard them and we’ve all spread them. In bygone, conservative times, they could shake and destroy entire families. Today they are spreading differently than they used to be, as the way information is disseminated has also changed – and we have innumerable opportunities to check what we are disseminating in order to avoid those devastating consequences.

The fact is, rumors still have tremendous potential to turn our world upside down. As a rule, it does not bode well for us to be the subject of a rumor. Because mostly these are pejorative messages.

What are rumors?

Usually rumors are verbal messages called word of mouth. The paradox about them is that there is no evidence of their veracity. At the same time, however, the more people spread the rumor, the more other people see it as true. They follow a very simple law: If something is repeated often enough, it must be right. But is it really like that?

Tunnel through a forest

The source of the rumor is often difficult to identify, especially because the message changes every time it is passed on to the next. Perhaps you still know the game “Silent Mail”, in which something completely different comes out at the end than was said at the beginning.

At first it is usually a short message, a suspicion or a doubt: “I heard that you are going to cut jobs”  or “Anna did not come to work and she has been sad all week. I think she’s depressed, ”  etc. Our brains prefer certainty over hypotheses. What begins as a hypothesis is therefore gradually reformulated into a dogma.

In order to complete the definition of rumors, let us list some features of the same. We know that rumors follow very specific patterns and laws:

  • Secrecy : The source is unknown. In general, there is an interesting phenomenon that people forget the source of a message faster than the content of it.
  • Certainty : We hardly question rumors, but accept them as they reach us. Critical questioning would mean too much intellectual effort for us. In addition, nobody likes to doubt the person who expressly affirms and assures the truth of the message conveyed.
  • Curiosity : The rumor arouses our curiosity, either because it affects us somehow or because it is about a scandalous topic.
  • Speed : The general interest in them makes rumors almost unstoppable.
  • Proximity : Rumors do not spread between strangers, but in the personal environment, in relatively close relationships between confidants.
  • Change : Rumors act like a tree. When one branch is sawn off, others branch out to fill in the gaps that have been created.

Another characteristic of rumors is that they tend to go viral. Each recipient is also a potential sender of the respective information. And the recipient often adds their own opinion before becoming the sender. This changes the type and tone of the content being transmitted.

Get a clear view of the forest through glasses

How can we dispel rumors?

The answer is as simple as it is impossible: preventing people from communicating with one another. A more realistic solution is possible, but it requires effort and effort: We should always critically question the information we receive. We should ask ourselves whether the source is reliable. If possible, ask the person you heard the rumor from if they believed the information and its source. We should also think about whether someone has benefited from the rumor and could possibly have started it on purpose.

One rumor that should be handled with particular caution is a rumor about minorities or groups who are unable to defend themselves. Therefore we state once again: History is always written by the winners. The first price the vanquished must pay is to accept the victor’s view as historical truth. Just think about the European dictatorships of the past century and how they treated the truth.

However, we do not have to travel in a time machine to confirm this fact. Even here in the present we can see that many stereotypes about minorities are systematically fed by rumors. Rumors thus fuel prejudice and discrimination. Wouldn’t you prefer to spoil the soup for the rumor cooks?

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