Just give us the facts, Jack!
"REALLY? Where'd you hear THAT? Y'know, I remember this time when ... "
It's just how it is when people run into friends and neighbors. We recount all sorts of stories, mostly funny, some not so much. Like when someone we knew got a new puppy that promptly snuck out the front door when her hubby reached out to get the newspaper. We still laugh about how their whole neighborhood saw him running down the sidewalk after her, wearing only his "tighty whities" and yelling, "You come back here right NOW!"
We still think that one's funny, even more than 20 years later. The hubby? Not so much.
For the most part the exchanges are harmless—a part of sharing news of people we know, what's going on in the neighborhood, who thinks he's/she's being sly checking out the new gal/guy, or whatever. It's just the "neighborhood news train" — or whatever you want to call it — keeping everybody up-to-date.
And that's all well and good—until the train goes off the track. When the news train turns into a not-so-fun version of the child's game "Operator," it's not just the train that gets derailed. Remember "Operator"? Someone starts by whispering to the person next to them, who repeats it to the person next to them, and so on, until the last person blurts out what they thought they heard. And it's never anything even close to what the first person said.
We see the tech-savvy version all the time, where people share all sorts of stuff that goes viral on social media. Maybe the words connect, or they're a fan of whoever is pictured. Whatever the reason, one click and it's shared—whether it's accurate or not.
The worst part is when viral memes become perceived as truths, just because a gazillion people shared them. And isn't that like our home-town and neighborhood "news trains"?
We don't have to have a gazillion people in our town or area for unfounded "facts" to become dangerous. Is the city council really planning to spend a ton of money on a building project that doesn't make any sense? Or is the county commission buying brand new equipment it doesn't need? Did you hear the school board approved purchasing all-new technology, even though the equipment they have isn't all that old?
Maybe... or maybe not. Maybe the city isn't looking at a building project, but at a renovation effort they anticipate will increase jobs and attract tourists. If everyone who's grumbling about it had been at the council meeting, they would have heard from the rural rejuvenation group that made the proposal and could have asked all the questions they wanted.
Do you know why the county commission needs new equipment? Will the equipment do the same jobs the existing machinery does, or will it improve county roads or snow removal? Is the purchase justified, or is it truly frivolous? If you'd been at the commission meeting or called a commissioner, you could have gotten the facts about the proposed purchase.
And what prompted the school to revamp its technology? Maybe it's not the computers the district is replacing—infrastructure also becomes outdated. If you'd attended the school board meeting, you would have heard the plans from the source.
We don't like to hear our own names being dragged through the mud for nothing, so we do our best to treat others as we want to be treated. When we hear something that frosts our cookies, we check it out before we speak out. We hope you will, too.