Corozal Daily

Let's say you've just heard a REALLY hot juicy rumor or even an obnoxious and sick one about someone you know. It may not be true, but it's too good to keep to yourself. Your first instinct is to hop to a local bar or jump on online and IM it to all your friends.

It is not only in Corozal or Belize but we've all had that kind of urge. But why?

Men/women whispering to one another is to feel superior about the person who is being rumoured about.

When people are feeling bad about themselves, they sometimes think they'll feel better if there were someone worse off than they are. It's like, it's okay being near the bottom, as long as they're not actually at the bottom. The easiest way for them to make sure someone else is at the bottom is to make up a rumor that puts him or her there.

If everybody else is gossiping or spreading rumors, you might feel you have to do the same thing in order to fit in and for attention. I consider in Belize men to be the worse gossipers. Free mason exists as a secret society so when you're "in on the secret," you're in the group. Unfortunately, the person who the gossip or rumor is about is usually left out of the group for the same reason that you're let into it.

When you know a secret that nobody knows, or are the first person in your group to hear a rumor, it can make you the center of attention. A rumor or piece of gossip is sometimes like money; telling it to people is like buying their attention, if only for a few minutes. You might even save up a really scandalous and obnoxious rumor, waiting for the right moment to blab it out so you get the maximum amount of attention and damage for it. This is so sad Belize.

Certain people always want to be in control and at the top of the ladder. You probably know at least one person who needs to be the leader, say what goes, and make all the decisions. When people are at the top of the popularity scale, or are determined to climb higher, one way they do this is by reducing the "status" of another person. Yes reducing that status of your fellow countrymen and women in Belize has been culturally engrained in our society. Spreading rumors and gossip is one of the main ways people reduce another person's status. It's like one caveman beating up another caveman for control of the tribe-only it's done with cruel whispers and obnoxious remarks instead of fists.

If you're jealous of someone's looks, popularity, or money, you might gossip about that person in order to hurt him/her. If you feel that someone's done something bad to you, or deserves to be hurt, making up a rumor might satisfy your sense of justice (revenge).

A polling study was conducted with young people where boredom was one of the most outstanding reasons for gossip, however here is how other persons reacted.

The study asked IML'ers why they think people spread rumors, and here's what some of them said:

"I think people spread rumors and gossip to hurt that person's feelings because they're insecure, like bullies."

"I bet people start rumors to hurt people or because they think the truth is too boring."

"There are so many reasons! They may misunderstand a situation, want revenge, or just want to be a part of society without knowing how to."

"I think that people spread rumors and gossip because they are either bored, mad at that person, trying to stir up some activity, or to get attention."

Say you have a piece of wood, a nail, and a hammer. Pretend the wood is a person, and the nail is a nasty rumor about that person. If you hammer in the nail, you're obviously hurting him or her. If you then pull out the nail-well, there's still a hole in the wood, and the damage has been done.

There are many reasons why that nail of a rumor can be so harmful:

A punch may be painful, but at least it's over pretty fast. Rumors are, quite simply, a form of bullying that's sometimes referred to as "relational aggression." When a person or a group makes up a rumor about someone or decides to spread nasty gossip, it's usually to hurt someone, break up a friendship, or make someone less popular. It's the same thing as teasing, only it's done behind someone's back instead of to his or her face.

When you spread a rumor about someone, you're sending a signal that the person is outside of the group of society, you stigmatize the person and his entire family and somehow that person is less worthy of acceptance and friendship than others. You're making fun of that person or pointing out negative things about him/her in a most dangerous way Belizeans. This can let others think that it's okay to make the person feel inferior, and make him/her an outsider.

Believing rumors can lead to bad choices… Letting a rumor influence your behavior is like letting someone else make a big decision for you.
The gossip grapevine or what I call in Belize “rumourmill” has it that the new businessman in town is a con-man, hitman, drug dealer, you name it, so you avoid him. Years later, you and the businessman become friends, and you learn that he is not a con-man or the other things but he is the most firm, soft spoken, humble and thoughtful businessman you have ever known. So for years you have misjudged and mischaracterized the person but it is too late, you have damaged his reputation for ever.

So what do you do you ask…simple…if you decide that the rumor is hurtful in some way, make a stand. Decide that you don't want to take part in spreading it. Others may continue to circulate the gossip, but you've made a personal choice to stay out of it. Chances are that the rumor will die out much more quickly than if you had joined the buzz.

Remember just like with physical bullying, there are no "innocent bystanders" with hurtful rumors. Hearing and reacting to the rumor, and letting it continue, makes you almost as responsible for its damage as the person who started it. Instead, don't provide another pair of ears for the rumor-starter. If he isn't getting the reaction or attention he's seeking, perhaps he'll be less likely to do it in the future. God Bless Belize.

We will continue to advocate and stand for social justice and for the improvement of our community at all costs. In Belize we enjoy a democracy of freedom of expression without fear or favour.