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Spreading rumours on social media: Why do people do it?

“Forward this to everyone on your contact list! Tolong viral-kan!” (Please make this viral, in English)

I’m sure that you have seen a similar message in one of your WhatsApp group chats.

But before you hit that ‘forward’ button, take a minute or two to consider how spreading unverified information on social media could have a profound impact on social harmony.

Information can spread quickly on social media (Photos courtesy of Pexels)

Just don’t do it!

There, I said it.

This is what I’ve always wanted to scream at the top of my lungs whenever I receive a message from that “overly enthusiastic” WhatsApp group chat member.

If you are like me, I’m sure that you are part of a WhatsApp group chat that is known to have “all the latest gossip and rumours”. It could be a work group chat or even a family group chat.

Think twice before hitting that ‘send’ button on WhatsApp.

You read about it too often in the local newspapers. More often than not, the authorities would issue a press release informing the public that a rumour that was spread on social media was unfounded.

The following question has always fascinated me: Why do people enjoy spreading rumours?

I recently had coffee with a long-time friend who has had her fair share of being the target of unfounded rumours.

According to her, the three main reasons why people would do this is:

(1) For attention

Information is power, or at least that’s what people say. By being the first in the group to spread a piece of new information is your ticket to becoming Mr or Miss Popular … even if it’s just for a brief moment.

(2) For control of power

People naturally want to be on the top of the corporate ladder. By spreading rumours or gossip, they can reduce another person’s status.

(3) Out of boredom

Some people just cannot stand it when everyone is happy and getting along just fine. To create “drama”, people will say the nastiest things about other, whether it’s true or not, to get a reaction.

What are your thoughts on this? We’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever received unverified information in any of your WhatsApp group chats?
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