Hamsters on the Rumor Wheel

Noa Rosenberg   One of the most advertised aspects about Latin is its size. It’s a small school, which has its upsides and downsides. For one, everyone knows each other. When something happens, whether it be happy or sad, the community feels it as one. On the flipside of that coin, this light-speed travel of words facilitates a robust rumor mill that is felt schoolwide. Even in the first, antisocial days of my freshman year, I knew things about people I had never met—people four years older and seemingly ten feet taller than me. So much of my early social security was bargained with intel. As a new kid, one of my biggest insecurities was my unawareness of tales of days past like the “laptop thief,” but I worked quickly to gather all the stories. Then, being the nervous person that I am, I would go home and worry that I had just started something bad. This kind of give-and-take is what comes with rumors. Do people tell them with the intention of spreading something? It’s easy to think that once you hear a good story, you can barter it away to someone and that it will stop there. But that same desire for human intel probably exists within the next person. The rumor phenomenon is not unlike math problems about exponential growth, you know, the ones about bacteria. You start with one cell, and when you return three hours later, there are millions. Over the years, I have willingly and unwillingly collected boatloads of information on people whose names I sometimes don’t even know. Honestly, some of this distance might even be driven by the rumors themselves. Murmurings create uncertainty and undeserved reputations and, due to the small size of the school, these rumor-induced personas are difficult to shake. Latin makes it difficult to not have a reputation. It’s odd that, though news moves at breakneck speeds, subverting these reputations with new information is uncommon and “real” or “important” narratives struggle to catch. Latin’s small student body should let all students get to know each other for real. It should be a no brainer to say hi to people in the hallways or reach out to them through Facebook. But rumors make people larger than life. When you feel as though you know someone through their famed personas, the incentive to get to know them is lessened and the “realness” of people is reduced to fake assumptions. No one wants to talk about Latin’s gossip problem. And that’s fair. Because of this reality, this article has taken many different directions in an attempt to justify or explain the issue. How does one write an article about rumors without dredging up tales of the past in the process? And why bring attention to a dark part of the community? The answer? Because rumors and the climate they create are too central to the Latin experience and too necessary an evil to ignore. They will always exist. Sharing secrets can make people feel close. What is important, though, is not to let these stories keep you from making real connections. Though the person that you present to the public is what tends to define you in high school, it should be the responsibility of the community to not let little things eclipse what matters most about a person.]]>