Most everyone knows about the old children’s game of gossip. Children sit in a row and start at one end and whisper into the ear of the one next to them, and what is said is then repeated in whispers down the row, and when the whisper has reached the other end of the group, it is spoken out loud and resembles nothing like the original whisper.
Since the advent of the internet and e-mail, this game seems to have been taken over by apparent adults. While we were busy with family and jobs, we were fairly oblivious to this phenomenon, but in the past decade, having the free time to spend on the computer, and finding it often an excellent way to keep in touch with family and friends, we now too often experience what is familiar to everyone on the e-mail circuit now: we don’t get e-mail from friends, we get garbage. Oh, occasionally we get a how-my-day-went communication, or we get an actually funny story or joke, but the greatest majority of what we get from friends and acquaintances is junk. Is either recycled ‘stuff’ that has been forwarded so many times that it’s a hazard, or, what is infinitely worse, we get mean, ugly, vitriolic rumor and hearsay that makes us apprehensive of the mental health of the sender. A case in point: we recently received, from an old ‘friend’, an ‘absolutely true statement straight from Snopes’ about the birthplace of our president. Again. Now we are staunch supporters of Mr. Obama and make no bones about it, but we don’t require that all our friends and acquaintances feel the same way. What we do require, and what we are now taking a firm stand about, is that what is sent as ‘fact’ be accurate, and the most immediate way to determine that it is not the truth is that it is either a re-dredging of issues long settled, or that it contains the statement that it has been verified by Snopes. Snopes is a decently reliable site, but it has been abused by garbage writers more than is imaginable and when it is cited, the sender usually figures that no one will check.
But here is where the true horror comes in. The particular ‘friend’ who sends this trash pretends to be an honorable person, a religious person, and yet is sending out gossip that is unverified, and, knowing our position, is obviously sending material designed to provoke. Along with disparaging remarks designed to hurt. Us. Over and over. What that comes down to is lack of respect for the recipient. What that comes down to is the end of friendship. That’s only one of the horrors of gossip.