Once upon a time, we lived in a small, remote area, mining town. There was a saying there: ‘If you haven’t heard a rumour by ten o’clock, you’d better start one.’

And one day, a friend, who had something happening he knew would stir up the rumour mill, decided to tell just one ‘trustworthy’ person, just to see how fast the rumour mill worked. He worked on the mine site. I worked in the hospital in town. One of my patients told me the juicy piece of gossip within about an hour of him telling the person. 🤦🏽‍♀️

Anyway, this week I’ve been reflecting on how fast gossip moves nowadays, and how widespread it is, not to mention how damaging it can be.

We now live in a town that’s considerably larger than the remote area one, but is still relatively small in most peoples’ eyes. We have a couple of town facebook pages, and recently there have been a spate of posts which say things like: “Who knows what’s happening in Smith street? Police everywhere…” or similar. Not to mention hearsay, ignorance and spelling errors everywhere. (I know. Not really fair of me, but sometimes I want a red pencil quite desperately.)

People then chime in with their theories or rumours or perhaps even facts (but that might be debatable too) until there’s a whole conversation going on about what might be occurring.

Sometimes there are requests for doctor or school recommendations. Then there are the sometimes libellous comments that come afterwards.

When my husband and I were chatting this morning, we were reminiscing about how slowly rumours and gossip used to spread, in comparison to now, the digital age.

Once upon a time, you had to physically speak to someone to gossip or pass on a rumour. Now, you just pick up your phone or tablet and put it all out there in public. Often without thinking about it. People shoot their mouths off without thinking, or fact checking, or even contemplating whether it might even be appropriate to comment on something.

Gossip in the digital age spreads very fast. Within a few minutes, something minor can become something major, full of hurt for many involved. I’m reminded that gossip is gossip, no matter whether it’s via social media or face to face. Perhaps we ought to consider pausing before we post.

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