Online Gossip: more than sticks and stones

 
SHARE

It later turned out that Hayston, who has since found another full-time job, was innocent. The Massachusetts Department of Social Services reviewed the allegations and found them to be unfounded.

This one-time mentor of school athletes could well ask the same question a former United States Secretary of Labour, Raymond Donovan, asked when acquitted of criminal charges: “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” Losing one’s reputation online is perhaps too easy today. According to a Weblog, or blog, written by New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney, the internet giant Google “estimates a new blog is being created every second of every day.” In that same report, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said the firm believes each blog is seen by, on average, one person.

However, many blogs get far more than just one reader. Some get thousands or even millions. But what happens if you get a negative mention on the internet and only those who are in your local circle of family and friends see it? Embarrassment may come your way.

So what’s a person—or a company—to do? Rumours and gossip can be spread online faster than any old game of “telephone” could ever accomplish. Even today, websites such as www.snopes.com and urbanlegends.about.com are regularly updated with news of the latest misinformation about consumer products and companies.

Even the old rumours about a popular consumer products company or the other canard about religious programming being taken off the air are still bouncing around in emails and, probably, on minor websites somewhere.

It’s widely acknowledged that the great thing about the internet is that it allows just about anyone to become a publisher. At the same time, that’s the bad thing about the online world: anyone can publish online, and there’s little moderation of what’s right and wrong.

One way of looking at it might be to compare a raw supermarket tabloid—the kind that engaged in the most ridiculous of speculations— with a highly respected, established newspaper or magazine. Anyone who reads the tabloid should realise that the level of truth is low at best. The reader of an established and respected journal, on the other hand, can expect or even demand the highest quality and veracity.

Christian blogging superstar Dawn Eden, whose “Dawn Patrol” blog has garnered national attention and led to her first book, The Thrill of the Chaste, (W Publishing, 2006), also knows that those who don’t like her ardent prolife blogging will sometimes try to attack her.

“What I don’t like is when people say things about me and make it seem they’re privy to some secret information,” she said.

How can you know that what you’re reading online is trustworthy? “The only way to do it is the same way you do it with someone who is a friend,” Eden said. “Spend time with them, and if they seem truthful about things you know, they may be truthful about others. It’s the same thing with the blogs.”