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VPSA Blog: October 17, 2018


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Truth and Rumors

October 17, 2018

There is an old saying: “Rumors get halfway around the world before the truth even gets out of bed.” Unfortunately, this has taken on a new—almost literal—meaning in the age of the Internet as “talk gets cheaper.”  We’ve all mistakenly believed false information at some point in our lives. It may have been in the news, something you heard from a close friend, or something you read on a social media post. Once a rumor gets out there, it’s hard for facts to break through the noise.

“I think we are all programmed to believe stories that confirm our beliefs,” news journalist Lester Holt said at Howard’s 151st Opening Convocation. “We can’t be afraid to tap the brakes on stories that are too good to be true.”


Lester Holt speaking at the Howard University Opening Convocation in September 2018.
Lester Holt speaking at the Howard University Opening Convocation in September 2018.


It’s essential that we take responsibility for the information that filters through us and understand the impact it has on our community. Although the amount of false information available may seem insurmountable, we can at least control our actions and the part we play in giving stories credence and reach.

On a micro level, think about how your words influence others’ perceptions of you. Spreading false information erodes trust. When you speak to someone, do they feel they can trust you? Or do people feel the need to take what you say with a grain of salt? Before hitting retweet or typing in a group text, take a closer look at the information you have, and think about the impact it may have on your level of trustworthiness.

Consider these questions:

  • Who is the source? Be sure that the information you transmit is from a reputable source and that you’ve considered the source’s potential biases.
  • Is it fact, opinion, or assumption? It’s not unusual for people to present their opinions and assumptions as facts when trying to make a point. Is there data to back up what the source is saying, or is it based on one person’s limited perspective?
  • Who else is sharing this information? Are there other reputable sources who confirm the story you’ve heard?

Unless these things check out, think twice before you spread the story any further. If people around you are sharing harmful information that you know is unfounded, be a good friend and let them know that that information is unconfirmed.

“Don’t be afraid of a healthy debate,” Holt told us at Opening Convocation. “Be smart. Don’t shoot from the hip; shoot from the brain, armed with facts and knowledge.”



How do you stop rumors from spreading? Let us know on Twitter!



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