Information Sharing or Gossiping?
Are you old enough to remember playing this game as a child? There are variations to it: in the British version, the first person would whisper one word to the next person, and that person would add a word as it was passed down the line. By the time it reached the final person, the sentence was quite complicated.
The American version from my childhood was called “telephone”: the first person would whisper in the second person’s ear a full sentence. That person (after hearing the sentence once) would whisper it on to the next, and so on down the “telephone” line until the last person would say out loud what they’d heard. The result was never the same as the initial sentence, sometimes to great hilarity. (Ellen DeGeneres has a headphone version of it as a game on her daytime television show.)
Anyway, the purpose of the game was to show children how distorted information gets when shared between people.
How can you tell the difference?
When my sisters and I had finally grown up, we used to telephone each other fairly regularly (at least until I moved to England in 1985). During those calls, we would share family news, if we had any, between ourselves. To us it was how families worked.
But our mother didn’t like it. She would admonish us, individually, for gossiping.
What I suspect was our mother’s motivation to stop us from communicating ‘news’ with each other was the fact that any two of us could be going behind another’s back, without their knowledge or permission. She may have wanted to be the one to do the sharing, if and when it was appropriate.
Now, all these years later, we still have reservations about saying anything to each other about any other family members. In other words, we don’t gossip.
Fake news is a neologism often used to refer to fabricated news. This type of news, found in traditional news, social media or fake news websites, has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate. (Wikipedia)
The whole world now has a giant “telephone” game: social media.
The intent of “fake” news may be malicious or humourous, but the innocent folk who share it are being used. Not everyone has the time or inclination to research the news items they see on the internet, and funny memes on Facebook. They pass the information on like it really doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. If it says something they’ve been thinking, all the better.
We, who live in the West, think we are championing ‘free’ speech. Everyone has an opinion, and we can agree to disagree. But what if the opinion being shared on the world wide web was intended to further separate us from each other? What if it was meant to start a civil war? Would that make you more careful about what you share?
Reputations can get ruined
A sequence from Anne with an “E” shows how quickly information can spread among a group of teenagers at a dance. The intent may have been malicious, but that’s not how it was portrayed. Billy, after being spurned by Josie, saves face by making a casual comment to one of his friends. In a matter of minutes everyone seems to have heard about it. Anne picks the ‘news’ out of the air and then decides to write an opinion column in the school newspaper about how men control women: “Is that fair?”
The subsequent fallout is devastating to all concerned.
Gossip: it’s a subject that has occupied my mind for a very long time. In fact, I wrote a poem about it, years ago. (But, who pays attention to what I write?)
Even in our Faith & Science group, one member challenged me on a statement I’d made about Catherine McKinnon’s graffiti being not a sexual slur but a political one, from someone in the oil patch industry. His words were “Do you have proof?”
And I had to admit that I didn’t.
I guess this means I’m human, after all.