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Breaking Down Rumors

Updated on March 29, 2018

STOP- letting rumors have an adverse affect on your life!

How do rumors get started, and why?


Rumors have existed since the beginning of time, in a sense. Although originally a practice that originated as an effort to get information about others in the community before telephones or internet, today rumors are used more as a means to hurt others. Whether it be in business or personal lives, rumors that spread can have a detrimental impact on the lives of those involved. Add the ease and access to millions of people from social media, and rumors can have long lasting effects. When someone is faced with malicious rumors, they have the option to hide and hope they rumors fade out on their own, or to face them head-on and confront them to dispel them.

Breaking Down Rumors

From their inception to their demise, rumors have a cycle that can last a long time or burn out quickly. A lot of that can depend on the subject of the rumor and the actual rumor itself. Most people have been victim of a rumor or have been guilty of partaking in the spreading of a rumor at some point in their lives. Generally, the “juicier” the rumor or the status of the person being targeted in the rumor can be a determinate in how far the rumor will spread or the negative implications of the rumor. It is debatable as to whether it is best to dispel the rumor by confronting it head on, or ignoring it in hopes that it will die out on its own.

Where do Rumors Come From?

It turns out, according to an essay written by Jesse Singal, titled, How to Fight a Rumor, that rumors were originally created as a means of obtaining information about another person. Signal, writes, “Rumors, it turns out, are driven by real curiosity and the desire to know more information. Even negative rumors aren’t just scurrilous or prurient—they often serve as glue for people’s social networks.” (Behrens 2016. p, 513). If you think in terms of olden times, it is easy to picture an image reminiscent of Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffin Show, who is jumping on the phone to dial up Clara to find tell of something that she just heard or maybe saw for herself. From there, Clara never fails to tell others of the news she was just privy to, and generally, by the end of day, the whole town knows of Aunt Bee’s news. While they may have originally intended for gaining information and questioning the truth of what one has heard, rumors have evolved in to something that can be downright purposeful humiliation or damning of another person.

What Drives the Rumor?

The rumor mill, as it is commonly referred to, is mainly driven by curiosity for the most part, Daniel Goleman, writes in his essay titled, Anatomy of a Rumor: It Flies on Fear, “Rumors, it turns out, are driven by real curiosity and the desire to know more information. Even negative rumors aren’t just scurrilous or prurient—they often serve as glue for people’s social networks.” (Behrens 2016.p, 513). Rumors are spread, for the most part, by word of mouth. But, in our modern world, social networks are a breeding ground for rumors to fire up and go viral. As stated in the Essay A Psychology of a Rumor written by Robert H Knapp, “So defined, rumors have three basic characteristics. They have, first, a distinct and characteristic mode of transmission—mostly by word of mouth. Being spread by means of this primitive medium, rumors are more subject than the formal modes of transmission to inaccuracy and capricious distortion”. (Behrens 2016. p 497).

How Best to Squash the Rumor Mill?

In Jesse Signal’s essay, he references former President Barak Obama in his strategy to diffuse rumors that were being spread about him. He tells of President Obama heading the rumors off by confronting them, and dispelling them himself. While it may not be the most highly regarded method for shutting down rumors, it may well be the most effective method. It is generally easier for a person to take the high road, and just avoid confrontation by hiding from the rumors, or trying to ignore them. But, rumors left unaddressed, can run rampant and cause serious implications.


Whether it be by malicious intent, by someone looking to hurt another person’s reputation or someone who is looking to make themselves look better by hurting others, or unintended fallout from curiosity, rumors can be hurtful and harmful. They have long existed, and will likely always continue to exist. Being the victim of a rumor can stir up feelings of anger and desire for seeking revenge. However, when faced with the implications of being the target of a rumor, one must ask themselves, is it better to hide from the rumor and hope that it goes away, or better to face the rumor and the person who is responsible for starting the rumor and confronting them face to face to dispel the untruth being spread? Only the individual who finds themselves the target of rumor spreading can answer that question for themselves.


Behrens, L. (2016). Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 13th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from


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    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Good Hub and well written. Rumors have become a world wide spread social disease because of media technology. It is strange how people seem to love believing the worst of rumors about other people. My father used to say, "Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear." I've always taken that advice to heart.


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