Rumors spread quickly here, but I didn’t realize exactly how true this was until about a week ago when I met with a classmate to work on an English presentation for an hour. It was nothing spectacular, but when I returned to the library room after we were done, all my friends exploded. “How was it?” “Where did you guys go?” “Are you guys official?”
What? I began to deny it but everyone was already giggling so I let it go. One innocent soul, however, clearly out of the loop, asked if it was true. Immediately, everyone confirmed with fervent yeses and he was convinced. It was so ridiculous I had to play along. I thought that was the end of it.
The next day at lunch, several people grilled me about my “relationship,” demanding to know why I had not told them that I had been together with John Doe since before spring break. Not only had the rumor begun to spread, but it was also augmented because there had been no mention last night of the “before spring break” part.
Apparently, they had confirmed the rumor with the poor soul we had duped last night, who swore he did not actively inform people but only verified when people asked. If this was true, someone outside the study room had heard and dispersed the false gossip. As I said nothing at the accusations and choked on my laughter, consequently my reddening face was taken as verification.
At this point, I knew that poor John Doe was doing his best to dispel the rumors and I really should have done my part as well, but I wanted to see just how far this would spread. How many people were gullible enough to fall for such a farfetched joke?
That evening, back in the library room where it began, even more people came, demanding to know the truth. Some said they couldn’t believe they had to hear this from Third Formers instead of me. One of John Doe’s friends said he hadn’t believed it, except that the entire locker room was talking about it and he had started to wonder if it was indeed true.
Within twenty four hours, a joke had multiplied from one person to a hundred. In the end, to me at least, it was more of a social experiment than a prank, and it was an educational experience in several ways.
The first is that if anything takes a step out of your mouth, it’s not going back in. This seems obvious, but surprisingly no one keeps this in mind when telling secrets. Remember primary school? Don’t tell anyone, but… (insert secret here). Everyone who hears that whispers it to another person, thinking one more person can’t hurt. Even if you only tell a single person, easily a hundred people could know by the next day.
If you really want to keep something secret, don’t tell anyone, including that one person you just absolutely have to tell, because once someone other than you knows a secret, it is no longer a secret. Also, whatever comes out of your mouth could be all over school, so choose your words carefully. It’s bad to say something offensive, intentionally or not, but it’s infinitely worse when the entire school knows what you said. Let’s be real, we all gossip, even the faculty.
However, the point is not only to stop talking about people, but to be aware that what we say may reach the person we talk about and be prepared to face the consequences if that happens. In some cases, you might not have even told the secret to the person who spread it. The source of the rumor doesn’t even have to be someone you entrusted with the information. Walls are thin, and so are library room doors, as I have found out. In the dorms, you can often hear every word from the next room over through the vents. A casual remark you made to a friend in privacy might be all over school by tomorrow, so watch what you say.
Making negative comments, whether they are the material of petty catfights, or more seriously offensive, such as being sexist or racist, is like throwing pebbles in a pond. They don’t slip into oblivion without a trace; they make ripples whether you want them to or not. Don’t blurt things out indiscriminately, because once you release your thoughts into the world, their effects will be greater than you might have imagined. Our words are so powerful, especially at a school as small as Groton.
With that in mind, we must not only be cautious about what we say but also what we hear. In class, we read critically and do not take anything for granted, no matter the source of the information. If we question everything ranging from math formulas to the Bible, demanding proof, then what makes us think it is alright to believe the suspicious things we hear on the grapevine?
To be fair, sometimes the most farfetched gossip turns out to be true, but it is so easy to spread any lie we want. Secrets are entertaining, whether they end up being true or not, but to pass them on without a thought is to emulate the girls from the Clique series (intellectual literary reference, I know) who are willing to sell any secret for “gossip points”.
Finally, one last thing—I just want to say: John Doe (you know who you are), I apologize for the confusion. It was educational and entertaining, but it probably wasn’t as fun for you as it was for me.