Social Consequences of Rumour
A rumor, a shortened term rumor, is “an oral story, typically have multiple personalities transmitted from person to person, usually pertaining to an event, object, or topic in the public interest.” In its most common form, a rumor is considered a “rumor” when it is started and is often maintained as fact by those perpetuating it. It can also be considered a “rumor” if a large number of people continue to circulate it. On the Internet, rumors are often referred to as “snopes,” “hypes,” “rumors” or” urban legends.” The term “rumor” comes from the word rume, which means “of a doubtful nature.” A rumor can be started by any person who has an interest in the subject and is not certain about its truth.
There are different types of rumours. The first is just an ordinary opinion, which may have some validity; such as the opinions expressed by Hollywood actors on-set or journalists working in war zones. A typical rumour is that a particular celebrity committed suicide after being abused by another. Another example is that a politician was arrested for murder; the rumour is that he is being blackmailed. Another example is that the government announced that there was a new drug that killed 100 US citizens; another rumour is that it caused the death of Princess Diana. These are examples of “rumours”, which are generally not considered to be false until proven otherwise by either the media or experts.
Rumours can have numerous effects, both negative and positive. Negative effects of a rumor are often discussed in literature and social science, but often remain a mystery for those experiencing them. Examples include the effect a rumour had on public opinion about Spain’s entry into the World War ll; this would lead to massive demonstrations against the Spanish government. Positive effects of a tumor are rare but can include the fact that a celebrity committed suicide shortly after starting a rumor. However, since all forms of communication are produced and transmitted through communication with other people, this leads to the question of just how truthful rumors are, whether they are worth spreading far and wide or if they are better left alone in the dark, unknown environment of the internet.
The truth is that the internet facilitates and accelerates gossip, especially internet gossip. This makes it very easy to spread a rumour rapidly. This is because the internet has made it easy to create fake emails and blogs and publish these as if they came from a trusted source. Then, if someone asks any question about these rumours, you will be able to answer them almost instantly without thinking, as if you were conversing with your friend. For instance, if somebody mentions a certain celebrity who is dating a certain former Miss Spain, you can just type this question in an internet search, and then proceed to answer all your friends’ questions regarding the matter.
Although it is quite amazing how easy it is to create rumours, one cannot help but ask, what is the function of such gossip in general, especially on the Internet? Some may argue that this kind of rumour serves an important social purpose: spreading information about a relatively unknown topic can help a lot of people reach the same decision about that topic faster than if they would discuss it directly with each other. If you think about it, any form of gossiping already exists on the social level: when we talk to our friends, we share some details about our acquaintances, even if we do not exactly reveal every detail about them; and so it goes with newspapers and magazines, as well.
Rumors, then, do have an important social cognition function – they help us to make use of available information. But what happens when this gossip reaches a certain threshold? Does it no longer serve its function anymore? The truth is that the main function of humor is still there, but it has now been diluted beyond normal human reproduction levels: that is to say, it tends to make people act more like sheep, rather than people who can analyse the different information and facts before making their own decisions.