Thou shalt not slander: rumors damage lives

by Lizzie Pollock


Did you ever hear that rumor going around about Lauryn Hill? The one that said that she would rather her first-born child die than a white person buy one of her albums? Well, guess what? It's not true.

Many rumors just like this one, start on the basis of one person wrongly interpreting something someone else has said and passing it onto the next person. Unfortunately, besides just being juicy topics of conversation, rumors can hurt and even ruin the reputations of many people famous singers and typical teenagers alike.

If rumors are so harmful, many wonder why so many people engage in the telling and re-telling of them. Seriously, who hasn't said or even just overheard a sentence like: "Omygod, you won't believe what I just heard..." It's true teenagers, adults, children, and journalists all want to relay gossip. Although I am a violator of this offense, I have come to realize that gossip and rumors are wrong.

Think of yourself. Have you ever engaged in gossip? Most likely, the answer is yes. Many people have revealed something to which they were sworn to secrecy. Or they've told somebody a story that wasn't completely true. Embellishment is easy and often fun. But when it's at the cost of someone else's reputation, it can be almost life shattering.

I can remember that in sixth grade, there was a rumor going around about one of my friends at the time, saying that she was a slut because she had kissed a boy in the girls' bathroom the year before. I knew that it wasn't true, and I felt horrible for my friend, who, at the start of our middle school career, was established as "slutty." That, to me, is the essence of gossip. A kind, sweet, innocent friend of mine was labeled and judged for something that wasn't even accurate.

Not only can you depend on the regular occurrence of gossip, but you can also be sure that if something even remotely interesting happens, within a week, the whole school will know. If a guy cheats on his girlfriend one night, it's pretty likely that the girlfriend, her friends, and her friends' friends will know about it the next day. News travels fast.

Then there's the recent case of the girl who said that she was raped in Newton Center. This girl could count on the fact that if she told one person, the whole city would know about it soon enough. Gossip like that never goes unnoticed, and the whole city took the event very seriously. When the truth about the situation came out, and it was revealed that the story was false, we were appalled at ourselves for believing something based on such minimal evidence.

People can also depend on gossip and rumors as topics of conversation. There's no better way to break an awkward silence than by sharing the most recent gossip about that kid at Newton North who was caught having sex in a stairwell with a campus aid, even if the information is completely fabricated. Sometimes the best conversations are the ones that start with, "You have to promise not to tell anyone but..."

However, that's no excuse for the damage gossip can do. There are other things to talk about, and maybe people should be less concerned with other people's business. I'm not saying that I've never gossip, or started a sentence with, "Omygod, you'll never guess what I just heard," because I have. However, the more I think about the consequences of such conversations, the guiltier I feel about them. Putting myself in the position of the person I'm gossiping about, I don't think I'd be very happy.

In the old kids game "Telephone", we would sit in a circle and one person would whisper a sentence in the next person's ear. Then that person would whisper the sentence they heard into the next ear, this continued all around the circle. The last person would announce the sentence he or she heard, and the first person would say what he or she initially said. "Apples are red" could turn into "moldy bread." Now, as teenagers, simple sentences like, "Suzy and Joe went out to dinner last night" can, after being passed on from person to person, turn into "Suzy and Joe had sex last night."

So, I'm not saying that everyone should stop gossiping altogether, because I know that that is virtually impossible. People have been gossiping for hundreds of years and I don't think anyone could stop that. But, the next time you're tempted to reveal a bit of gossip to your friends, think twice. Consider the rap artist who is labeled as a racist, the naive sixth grader who is considered to be a slut, the kid who supposedly had sex with a friend's dog, and the couple on their first date that really just went out to dinner. After all, you could be the next topic of everyone's conversation.

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