The Internet Rumors: Why Are They Powerful?

The Internet age has changed people’s lives tremendously by creating an alternative world with the reflections of small things from the real one. Today more and more people become aware of things like Internet rumors, Memes and urban legends. In my paper, there is one of the famous stories connected with the Internet rumor which will be analyzed to found out why they have become so powerful.

To begin with there must be given a brief explanation of what a rumor means. It is a kind of message (video, picture, text) which circulates inside certain group of people and contains specific information about something (Bodden, 2008). There are several websites, which were used while writing this work. Besides exploring social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get certain examples of the rumor, the Internet version of Forbes magazine was also used. It includes a full article about the story described in this work and different ways of fighting with negative Internet rumors. Another Internet resource is website of Daily Magazine which contains an article with famous stories about rumors and Memes.

Because of many striking examples, it has been cleared up that a rumor, Meme or an urban legend which might be created as a harmless joke can turn to be the main reason of catastrophe. Even a short message after spreading by “mouth-to-mouth” sets up a public idea, a piece of news which can be transformed into sensation (Pendleton, 2010). It is quite understandable that an internet rumor is the cheapest and, in fact, one of the quickest ways to influence public opinion, especially if the message, which has been forwarded brings into shock by pushing on fears and weak points. That is why a well-made meme is an excellent tool to use while working in public relations sphere or spreading propaganda.           

Let’s think of the story about rumor which propagated a gossip about explosion of a chemical plant in one of Chinese provinces. A message, which was forwarded by a number of cell phones, caused a rising panic with the result of several people dead because of car accidents (Pendleton, 2010).

To be successful in bringing information to people the rumor  has to be concentrated on some of the most impulsive human emotions (laugh, fear, interest etc.) in order to make them want to share this information with at least close friends or relatives to see what their reaction would be like (Barger, 2011).

The following “rumor story” was found in one of the articles of the Forbes magazine. This time the Internet rumor has touched not just a certain person or notion but the whole corporation “McDonald’s”. In June 2011 social networks (especially Twitter) suddenly became overcrowded with false pictures connected with racism, in particular with the encroachment of African-American rights. The picture quickly circulated the Internet causing thousands of people to send messages to “Mc Donald’s” with personal comments (Barger, 2011).

Fortunately, the corporation reacted fast by responding after every comment and denying being privy to this picture. Furthermore, the image of the corporation has not suffered very much as in the computer era, when the Internet space has already become alternative world, lots of other corporations such as Pepsi and Starbucks have to fight the internet gossips from time to time (Barger, 2011). With the growth of amount of such problems internet rumors began to be taken as special kind of psychological viruses.

This rumor was so widely spread and popular mostly because it brought out a remarkably touching issue such as racism which has always been taken extremely seriously, especially in the USA. The fact that “McDonald’s”, which is considered to be just an innocent fast food restaurant, might be connected with discrimination of human rights put people into deep shock and anger which made the rumor extremely effective.

Nobody knows exactly who was this false picture made by and where it was sent from. It might be just a joke or a competitive step towards a business rival. It might be denied by “McDonald’s” but the fact is that this story has already left a certain footstep in the public minds which is certainly not easy to be covered. It is considered to be an Internet rumor because of several factors. First of all, it includes a certain message about the corporation and there is no guarantee of its credibility. Secondly, this message circulated inside a big group of people through the Internet. Even though the picture has been denied it still had made an effect on the public face of the corporation. It means that the rumor has done its job successfully. Furthermore, the rumor had been made exceedingly creatively (Barger, 2011). Not many people would believe in a short message about a well-known company with a good reputation, but much more of them would believe in a colorful picture. As people say, it is better to see once than hear thousands of times. People had a desire to persuade others in truthfulness of this information. This desire made them pass it along.

Taking everything into consideration, this story proves that in the Internet era the internet rumor is just an ordinary, innocent joke or a fun story. It plays on the people’s feelings and in this particular case it played on a person’s fears, feelings of compassion and personal dignity. The situation described in this work proves that nowadays a rumor is quite serious strategic communication tool. If it is done in creative way it certainly may have an enormous influence on the public opinion (Bodden, 2008). In fact, it can even harm huge corporations by turning thousands of people striking towards it, and this gives a strong reason to be extremely careful while believing them.

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