By Lori Anander Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on February 13, 2022
Rumors. Gossip. Fake news.
We’ve all heard these terms. While most consider them harmless, they can affect your health. Learning to tell the difference between fact and fiction can be a real boost — both mentally and physically.
What happens when rumors aren’t harmless? What if they damage someone’s reputation, livelihood, or personal life?
If you’re on the receiving end of untrue gossip, what do you do?
Rumors vs. Gossip vs. ‘Fake News’
Rumors are defined as widely spread talk with no reliable source to back it up. They aren’t always bad. Some rumors can even seem positive, like promotions, engagements, or awards.
But until proven otherwise, they are just that — rumors.
Gossip is when you take rumors — those unconfirmed pieces of information — and pass them along, spreading what may be “fake news.”
What may be surprising is how difficult it can be to tell rumor and gossip from truth. Even people who are Internet-savvy can have trouble telling what’s real and what’s not. It can also be tough to tell the difference between news and advertisement. As a result, people sometimes give more weight to what they see in their social media feed than what they get from more credible news sources.
What’s the Harm?
When it comes to “fake news,” the effects can be both immediate and long-lasting. In most cases, a “fake news” story can rile up your emotions and change your mood. Depending on the strength of your feelings, the story, and the reaction it gave you, can stick in your head, even after you find out it’s false. You may even remember those feelings if you see another story about the same subject.
On their own, rumors and gossip seem harmless; almost a fun pastime. But there’s a point where they can become harmful to your health.
There’s a great deal of information out there about bullying among teenagers and younger children. What’s sometimes overlooked is that adults can be bullied, too.
It can come in the form of untrue rumors or gossip about them or a loved one. It can also come through reactions to words or an image that’s been posted.
Physical appearance, politics, and financial issues can all become the subject of online bullying, too.