Anatomy of a Rumor

by Rich Buhler

Most of us don’t intend to spread a rumor, hoax, or urban legend. We intend to spread the truth.

It’s fascinating, however, that in our desire to spread what we think is the truth, certain kinds of stories emerge that are repeated from person to person, year to year, century to century, and place to place. They have popularity and staying power. Yet many of them are not true.

And out of the vast amount of information available to us through radio, Television, the Internet, newspapers, books, and magazines, only a select number of stories qualify as the kind that will be forwarded from person to person. There are thousands of new and clearly true stories everyday that never end up in our email boxes. Why?

Let’s explore some of the characteristics of rumors, hoaxes, and urban legends and what we can learn from them:

Because so many of them are quickly and easily spread via email, we have coined the phrase “eRumor” to identify them.