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  • Abhirup Som

Rumours- A Social Virus

Rumour doth double like the voice and echo, the numbers of fear’d.”-William Shakespeare

Rumours are a type of widely prevalent social issue. They make everybody wonder about what is true and what is not. A rumour can be the source of much sensation and humour, but it can lead to much suffering and problems for its innocent victims. Rumours are also often considered to be sources of ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ (the former is often seen as simply false and the latter as deliberately false). They are particularly disastrous during an emergency. Due to baseless rumours, there is a great chance of riots breaking out. It creates a hellish fire of hatred and violence and furthermore, it can create unnecessary panic and problems for innocent victims.

In the 1947 study named The Psychology of Rumor, Gordon Allport and Leo Postman concluded that "as rumor travels it grows shorter, more concise, more easily grasped and told”. This conclusion was based on a test where a message was diffused between people, which determined that about 70% of the details in a message were lost in the first 5-6 mouth-to-mouth transmissions.

Rumours play an important role in politics as false, negative rumours about the political opponents are generally more effective than positive rumours about one's side. Rumours can also result in the profit of one group at the cost of another. Rumour bombs are specifically planned negative rumours which are spread by a particular political group about their opposition. It has no confirmed truthfulness and is unverified.

Rumours also help in strategic communication. They spread messages in support of specific organisational goals.

Veracity is rumours’ worst aspect. The current Covid-19 pandemic has created a lot of rumours. New platforms like the internet and its easy access contribute to the faster and wider spread of rumours and misinformation. Luckily, governments across the world have started many measures to counter the same. No one should share the information which is inaccurate and not confirmed.

Rumours are thus a type of social cancer that can divide people and spread like a wildfire.

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