Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf – Published week of February 2, 2015
Do you remember the telephone game? You would whisper something into someone’s ear and they would whisper what they heard to the person next to them. When it reached the end of the line what was whispered was repeated out loud to see how the words had changed and been misunderstood.
Recently I felt I might be in the middle of the telephone game. Actually the rumor, of which the subject was me, was caused by a misunderstanding with technology, namely the phone and texting.
It started with an early morning text I received from a friend in a city 100 miles away. The text said, “Are you OK?” Puzzled I answered, “Yes, why?” The reply was, “No reason, I just heard something.” My reply: “What did you hear?” The next text explained, “I heard you moved to the Cities.”
Thinking nothing of it and laughing about it, I continued on with my day until I received a message on Facebook from another friend. “Are you OK? Just wanted to make sure you were all right.” I was puzzled so I replied, “I am fine but this is the second text I received asking me the same question.” My friend texted me back and explained, “We heard you moved out and moved to the Cities.”
I thought that was interesting. My husband and I had both been spending a great deal of time in the Cities with our kids and enjoying the summer. At this point I laughed and thought about how rumors spread. Everyone that knows me should know I am an open book. If I would have moved to the Cities everyone would have known it. I didn’t make it any secret we were spending time in the Cities, but somehow that changed into my moving out and moving to the Cities.
This is where it gets complicated. Apparently the rumor came from a friend in Alaska who visited my community this summer while I was in the Cities. I checked back through my texts to this person and saw what might have been misconstrued. I would love to move to the Cities someday. I did state that in my texts to this person. I also stated I was spending time in the Cities. And I used the word “I” not “we.” A friend was getting a divorce, and I was spending time with them, too.
I don’t blame my friend from Alaska, and I don’t blame my friends here for the rumor. Thankfully they decided to check on me. I blame the fast pace of our world where we quickly text a message and we quickly read a message and don’t catch the entire wording or meaning. I do that all the time. A text comes in, and I quickly glance at it. I quickly answer and don’t check my walking fingers to see if my cell phone interpreted it right. The same thing happens with technology as did with the telephone game. The message changes the longer our fingers walk over those keys and our eyes bounce over the words.
It was my laugh for the day. I wonder how many things we misconstrue that we overhear or read in the media. We used to have a party line on our phone. For you young things out there, a party line is somewhat like group messaging or group calls. Most of the time we didn’t know anyone was listening. Or they didn’t know we were listening. Back then, if you wanted the good gossip, you turned to your phone when you heard it ring for your neighbor. You then put your hand over the receiver and gently lifted it up so they couldn’t hear that you were on.
Today, everyone knows you’re listening. Today we broadcast truth and rumor and let the chips fall where they may. It is hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. There are some pretty outlandish stories out there that are true. There are some boring stories told on your neighbors that are not. How do we differentiate fact from fiction? The Internet is rife with stories true and false, there is a fact-checker website called Snopes that sets us straight if — we are interested in finding out the truth about some of those stories floating around.
I must admit I am not any different than anyone else and my ears perk up when I hear bits and pieces of conversations about someone else. I think that is human nature.
That I know of, no one was hurt by the rumor floating around that I had moved to the Cities. My friends decided to check out the facts. They did the right thing. Had they not and I not become aware of the rumor, maybe there would have been repercussions.
The Internet and news media have made it easy for lives to be ruined by rumors. Right or wrong, great men and women have been brought down, lost jobs and had lives destroyed by unsubstantiated rumors. We have lost teenagers because of rumors. It is time all of us take responsibility and figure out whether the rumor we heard should be shared. Will it help or will it hurt? What will the words sound and feel like at the end of the rumor tree?