A rumor is an unsubstantiated and often false story that spreads rapidly from person to person through the word of mouth. It is sometimes hard to distinguish fact from fiction, and while many rumors are harmless, some can damage someone’s reputation or livelihood. Rumors can also cause a person to react before the truth of an issue has been established. For example, the image circulating on social media of refugees coming to Europe carrying weapons has caused people to react by limiting or delaying the acceptance of refugees into their countries.
Many rumors are about celebrities or politicians, and they often have to do with speculations of their future plans. Some of these rumors can even be true, but it is important to keep in mind that they are just rumors. Regardless of the truth, they will continue to spread. Unless they are corrected, they can cause a lot of harm.
Some people believe that a rumor is not a big deal because the truth will eventually emerge. However, this is not always the case because the rumor will still do damage in the meantime. Besides, some people will act on a rumor before the truth has been verified, which can result in disastrous consequences. For instance, when the photo claiming to show an ISIS fighter arriving in Europe was released, European officials proposed stopping refugees from Syria from entering the country. The rumor proved to be fake, but the damage had already been done.
It is possible to manage rumors, but it takes time. A good start is to only share the rumor with people that you trust. This will reduce the chances of it coming back to you in the future. It is also a good idea to make the rumor seem believable, so that it will catch on quickly.
People who are more anxious (situational and personality) or who have a high anxiety-lifting level are more likely to create rumors. They may do this in order to alleviate their anxiety and feel a sense of belonging to a group. Others may do it to impress their friends. Some individuals might divulge a rumor in order to receive attention from the crowd and become the center of attention for a while.
There are several models for rumor spreading, and Daley and Kendall formalized the classic epidemic model SIR in 1964. This model divides the crowd into three groups: those who do not know the rumor, those who spread it and those who stop spreading it. It has since been found that there are additional factors that can affect the rumor spreading process, such as rumor credibility and crowd classification based on personality. These new factors were included in a rumor spreading model called the SEIsIrR, which is a modified version of the SIR model. It incorporates a hesitating mechanism and 5 classes of individuals.