Recently, I came into work and was speaking with a coworker (I will call him “Joe”) who seemed more tired than usual. So much so, he seemed almost intoxicated, although I knew this was not the case, since he worked two jobs to support his family.
After we spoke, I overheard two other coworkers gossiping about Joe, claiming he was an alcoholic. Needless to say, I was disgusted to hear such a thing, especially since Joe was a good man, just trying to provide for his wife.
Circumstances like this are very common these days, especially on the internet. The proliferation of sites like Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter has extended the rumor mill to epic proportions. Someone can start gossip in California and have it reach Japan instantly.
However, we all know this, as we have been the prime generation for internet and social expansion.
What may escape some even today is what damage words can cause. For example, my coworker Joe could have lost his job if those in charge took the alcoholism rumors seriously. As a result, he would have no longer been able to support his family, therefore ruining his life. This does not only apply to in-person gossip, of course.
It is now a precedent for employers to check the Facebooks and Myspaces of prospective employees, so what rumors are passed around on those sites could reach the wrong eyes. Sure, there are privacy settings on social networking sites, but many do not activate them out of laziness or ignorance. This does not excuse rumor mongering, of course.
Social networking is not some fad, and to say so would be like dismissing the telephone as a fun little gadget for kids to play with until they catch their next Pokémon. Therefore, taking responsibility for what you say, and where you utter such a damaging thing, is and will remain a vital component of your life.
Many of people of different social arenas have already been victims of false information roaming the internet. It is now commonplace to find fake death announcements of certain celebrities posted on various websites. These pranks are all in good fun, some may say, but it could upset the wrong people, and lead to lawsuits clogging up our judicial system.
And while on the subject of the judicial system, think about what certain rumors could land a person in jail. Want to spread a rumor claiming someone is a stalker, or a rapist? Go ahead, the charges may not stick, but their reputations, and future employment opportunities may go right out the window. The phrase “Innocent until proven guilty” may often prove true in the courts, but in the real world, it can often be far from the truth.
It is often human nature to bow to the power of suggestion, after all. Even if the rumor is ridiculous, good luck getting it out of your head half the time.
So listen discriminately and speak carefully, or the consequences could be more than you, or anyone else, could handle.