“Why do people spread rumors?”

Social network, like Facebook and Twitter are reshaping the way people communicate. People share their personal views to their followers instantaneously through statuses and tweets. Followers will react to these messages based on their understanding and emotions. That is how rumors usually spread quickly. Rumors, once sparked, don’t just spread extremely quickly; they are also extremely difficult to control. And on top of everything else, it is extremely hard to predict which direction they’ll take as they spread. Rumors are very dangers and psychologically toxic. Specially, internet rumors can spread quickly, damage professional and personal life, misleading health information that is why we need solutions.

Rumors can damage one’s professional or personal life. The story of a great musician and a restaurant owner in Washington DC for a long time, Abonesh Adenew. I felt she was a victim of social media rumor that I heard a few years ago. I have known Abonesh since I was a little girl. People back home in Ethiopia called her “An ambassador of traditional music.” Back in 2008, there was a big rumor spread within the Ethiopian Community that was also posted on Facebook that Abonesh supported the ruling party in Ethiopia and she held a big music show that helped in fundraising a lot of money to support that government. As a result, her customers started to disappear and business went down shortly. Because back home in Ethiopia, if you support the current ruling party you can “live like a king”, get benefits & run your business well. However, in America, our people are divided in their views towards politics. She used to have a profitable business because of her fan base and as Ethiopians usually go to their national restaurants for socializing and to meet new people. However, she almost had no customer through time. It was devastating that this happened to her.

The rumor about Abonesh was totally based on a false information that people who gossip were without having a fact to support their statement. I know she was trying to help the country especially the village where she grew up. At the end, she tried to clear her name by using the media, like TV show, Facebook and twitter; however, it was too late as people already have heard the rumors and accepted it as the truth.

In the United States of America people have freedom of speech, they can put any rumors in their Facebook page, blogs or tweets, and any other media. Some people can abuse this freedom of speech & use it to support their agenda. However, in countries such as Ethiopia, that kind of acts are considered as a crime and people can be put behind bars for such kind of behavior. It is generally known that the internet is full of misleading information, false or exaggerated posts, but Brendan Nyhan a political science professor stated that, “Estimating the magnitude of the problem has been difficult until now.”

Social networks have a huge play on how rumors spread quickly. For example, a panel discussion by “The Kojo Namdi Show”, specified the internet technology and how rumor goes so fast through the social media. The first session focused on some of the recent topics which involved some unrealistic rumors about Ebola.

There were some rumors that Ebola is an airborne disease and these caused a lot of people to get anxiety, misunderstanding and led to the worst fear for people working around quarantine.

Once rumors are spread it is difficult to correct them. After misinformation get in the mind of people, it is difficult to correct it. One of the panelist Smith John with a computer science background mentioned the use of information technologies as a tracking tools, these tools will help in analyzing how many people have received these rumors. Later in the discussion it was also mentioned that by using these tools, the technology helps to systematically investigate how much the rumors are spread; like in twitter by counting all the tweets and retweets. The downside of these tools is they don’t work by their own unless they get input from humans and people need to update and correct them frequently. For example Craig Sinverman, a Digital Journalist at Columbia University’s make a point that, the rumor about the woman who claimed to have had an implant to add third breast is clearly an implausible story that were too good to check. According to Emergen’t data the story shared a totaling over 188,000 in tweeter. However the story was false. Also he displays a bar graph which indicated that how many people shared about “an implausible story Too Good Not to share” it was claimed over 60k to be true and less than 60k claimed to be false and that was within 5 days. These figures were based on the estimated cumulative social media shared on Twitter, Facebook and other channels.

It was mentioned that social media is the fastest in spreading rumors especially if the rumor is sent by a loved one, from someone whom we trust or someone in the same group. And sometimes it is difficult to send back the correct information to the people with a misleading information like in face book or tweeter to correct the situation. If someone send a correction on a false information, it will be new people who will access that and it might not reach the targeted group.

The other topic raised was how people create a misleading information. Pictures and videos are easy to manipulate and they can lead people to believe something false. A cut and paste of pictures with very artful edits will convince people to believe what they see.

An advice from one of the panelist Pro. William Smith was to be not a part or source of a problem by sending out rumors. Articles can be copied and pasted from a webpage can seem correct. Before passing information check the origin of the article and check the fact, and sometimes it is helpful to wait for a while before sending something which you don’t trust.

In Twitter, followers share rumors by simply re-twitting messages. As a result, rumors spread faster in Twitter than any other social networking platforms. “Why Rumors Spread So Quickly in Social Networks”, Brenda Nyhan.

A key observation in the mathematical proof, as well as being a good explanation for this phenomenon is that, ‘’small-degree nodes learn a rumor once one of their neighbors knows it, then quickly forward it to their neighbors’’. This propagation scheme facilitates sending rumors from one large degree node to another. We can talk how rumors spread by individual people and goes all over in the world and this plays in everyday life by Social Network such as Facebook, Twitter, blog, email and other.

Another type of internet or social media based rumor is articles related to health. Health rumors are common on the internet and may have a substantial effect on health detection and disease prevention behaviors. Despite the growing number of studies on internet rumors, the documentation of the authentic of internet rumors has receive little attention.

In Zili Zhang’s article “Predictors of the authenticity of Internet health rumors” Health rumors are common on the Internet and may have a substantial effect on health detection and disease prevention behaviors. Despite the growing number of studies on Internet rumors, the identification of the authenticity of Internet rumors has received little attention. This Study indicate wider online health rumors may lead misinform readers about specific health information. Moreover study guides people to identify true health information from the false ones. Some of the indicators or Zili used to categorize the rumors are the length of the rumors headliner, statement and type of the rumors wish or dead. If an internet health rumors that contain cues originate overseas, internet health rumors with longer headliner or statement are more likely false. Because when the information is obtained from overseas sometimes people misunderstood or fail to support with evidence. However an internet health rumors that contain elements such as numbers source cues, pictures, and hyperlinks are more likely to be true than the other.

Zili in his research said that the main message was how internet health rumors itself can alert people about a false rumors. Also how health rumors are rapidly disseminated and numerus facts may be misstated, misquoted or exaggerated. Moreover, Zili state that “The effects of false rumors thus can be reduced if users are explicitly warned how to tell what information may be false. To be effective, such warnings must specifically explain the indicators of a false rumor rather than generally mention that the rumor is false.”

Some people always go to the internet to search about their symptoms before they see a doctor and had some experience of seeing multiple incompatible information that led them to get confused or worried. And it is difficult to know which information is true or false. Now they understand that people need to know about health rumors and they will be able to save themselves from unnecessary worries or actions. Because people put all different kind of rumors using words or abbreviations commonly used by doctors that have the potential of indicating the article as it was written by professional and for those of us who don’t know much can certainly mislead. Information found from online non-medical sources often have important efforts on subsequent patient-clinician information engagement. Online rumors may come from multiple unknown individual and may be published on potentially untrusted site for one’s gain specially to sell some products. That is why we all need to know which sites are genuine and which are fraudulent.

On the positive side, Kim Harrison makes a valid point on his article “How to deal with rumors on the grapevine”. He mentions that it is sometimes good to have a rumors and gossip in work place because it helps the manager to have an open and honest communication with employee. However, the manager needs to be cautious which information to use and how to approach. Moreover, the manager could sometimes spread rumors to test the likely reaction to a possible management decision. This will help the management to add some feedback before final decision.

Furthermore, rumor can be a good communication between employee and employer. “The appropriate manager should confirm true rumors or true parts of rumors to staff as soon as possible. Management should avoid playing word games with the truth or parts of the truth in order to minimize bad news.” In my opinion they should have a good communication between manager and employee.

Kim Harrison said, “First why do people spread rumors? Humans are social animals — we need to talk to others. Chat about others helps to strengthen existing relationships. Besides entertainment value, gossiping can raise people’s self-esteem — we feel more important by getting information first and by the interest it creates.” It is true when two people share a gossip it has the effect to put them in the same level and also to share information.

But on the other hand, as mentioned above, it changes people’s behavior; because rumors damage professional and personal life.

An article “How to Handle Rumors and Gossip in internet based soical networking”, by Dr. Vivencio. This page outlines how to handle rumors and gossip in five very simple and understandable way

· Don’t remain silent: speak, reach out to the discontented, or say sorry if needed” (Dr. Vivencio). If the allegation is serious, you need to post or write something. If a person or a party remains silent, that means the rumors is true. He added silence means yes (tacit).

“Take gossip as constructive feedback to improve one’s self.” (Dr. Vivencio). If the cause of the rumors is your business, physical or personal traits, the solution is to go out and get advice from the experts. I like this advice because it brings out a negative rumor to a positive outcome.

“Provide a frequent, clear and convincing Information. For example, a manager needs to create an open and clear communication between his employees to avoid office rumors and gossip.

· Minimize the influence of power cliques. That means “If the corporate culture is personality, i.e., social ties matter more than merits, and lax in law enforcement or social control, influential power groups among employees and managers, competing to control the company’s resources and rewards, are more likely to arise.” In other words don’t let people in cliques work together?

“Live a moral, honest and upright life and be generous!” The best way to avoid rumors is to be friendly toward people. Try to bring them a treat, share something, greet or give a small gift or card not only your friends but your enemies also. “The point here is to create a “debt-of-gratitude” (Utang na loob) to every person in your social environment. In general, people “don’t bite the hands that feed them” or create gossips and humors to their benefactors or people who care for them. Be friendly with your enemies”. Find a way to be their friend don’t give them a a chance to gossip negatively about you.

In general, the article explains how to handle rumors and gossip in a social setting and in a very powerful way. We are humans, we like to talk about each other as a means of socializing, which can cause a huge problem for other people. Sometimes, office gossip and rumors has a positive outcome when they are created as a means of informal communication among the staff when the gossip or rumor is about something positive, that is when we employees take it as constructive feedback. It can help one change his/her personal or professional image.

In conclusion, rumors spread quite frequently in social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter, web sites, etc. Since rumors spread extremely quickly, they are also extremely difficult to control. However, posting the fact or correction on some assumptions will assist people to get the true information. Online publication such as web page is better in correcting false information than press, news organizations and newspapers which may correct information once they are out or necessarily update or put on a second article.

Therefore, the best solution is to change our behavior, stop involving ourselves in a negative rumor circle, and try our best to let people see the positive aspect of one’s life. Otherwise, rumors are very dangers and can damage professional as well as personal life.

Citation

  1. Nyhan, B. (2014, September 29). Why Rumors Outrace the Truth Online. Retrieved September 11, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/upshot/its-so-much-more-fun-to-spread-rumors-than-the-truth.html

2. Zhang, Z. (2015). Predictors of the authenticity of internet health rumours. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 32(3), 195; 195–205; 205. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

3. The Kojo Nnamdi Show. (2014, October 28). Stemming The Tide Of Rumors Online — Retrieved September 7, 2015, from http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2014-10-28/stemming_the_tide_of_rumors_online

4. Doer, B., Fouz, M., & Friedrich, T. (2012). Why rumors spread so quickly in social networks. Communications of the ACM Commun. ACM, 70–70.

5. Dr.Vivencio(Van), B. (2014). How to Handle Rumors and Gossip in Business or Public LifeHow to Handle Rumors and Gossip in Business or Public Life.

6. Harrison, K. (n.d.). How to Deal with Grapevine Rumors. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://leadfrdheart.com/2010/06/how-to-deal-with-grapevine-rumors/