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Gossip can be devastating.

Byline: ERIN BALDWIN 20Below News Team

IT STARTS with speculation, and swells with each slip of the tongue.

As it progresses, jumping from social group to social group, girlfriend to boyfriend to teacher to acquaintance, the havoc grows - whether the bearer intends to bring devastation or simply to entertain with "harmless" gossip.

Teen-agers are gossip's most frequent victims and villains. And even as the truth struggles to escape from its bondage, the rumor selfishly breeds and mutates, becoming an unrecognizable monster.

But what kind of a person would spawn such a heinous creature?


And it's no surprise. We all, at some time, are guilty of this mindlessly destructive behavior. It happens to the best of us, and it is difficult to resist the temptation.

"I think lots of people start rumors to hurt others, kind of like payback, especially if they've been hurt by them in the past," said Hannah Kang, a South Eugene senior. "People enjoy telling rumors because it's something that spreads like a wildfire, and soon, everyone is talking about it."

In fact, the average life span of a rumor in the hallways of most high schools is less than a week. Yet the repercussions can destroy a person's reputation and even last a lifetime.

"If you spread rumors, you are just trying to add spice into your own life at the expense of someone else," said Ryan Hammond, a junior at Sheldon.

Also helping the rumor pot to boil over: the desire to always have an engaging topic to discuss or to be the center of attention by delighting an audience with a juicy tidbit or two.

Jessica Seubert, a senior at South, believes rumors surface because people like to create drama and can't resist knowing other people's business.

"People feel important when they tell other people a secret," she said. "They get more attention, and it makes them feel special."

Rumors started out of jealousy are quite common, especially in high school, and they seem to be the most hurtful and degrading.

`You can't go through high school and not expect someone to try and cut you down,' Hammond said. `But that makes it better when you're still standing and you can look at them and say, `What next?' '

"I think that people start rumors out of jealousy," Marist senior Ashley Lance said. "They feel threatened by another person and feel that it is necessary to put that person down in order to make themselves look better, thus eliminating the threat."

Amy Kitchel, a junior at South, said there once was a rumor being spread that she had been adopted.

"People would come up to me and sympathize with me," she said. "Then, when I told them I wasn't adopted, they thought I was in denial. It was really hurtful."

By displacing the feelings of pent-up anger through a rumor, both the perpetrator and the target can lose the respect of their peers and adults.

"Rumors are lies that can either bend the truth or completely fabricate a situation," Churchill senior Josh Byerly said. "It is a type of injury that can take years, possibly even a lifetime, to heal.

"A rumor hurts, even if it is a good rumor. A bad rumor can either lower one's self-esteem or set them off on a rampage of hate and possibly even violence. You can seriously injure a person with the untruth."

Take a rumor, add a teen-ager, and instantly, you have a means to create low self-esteem and introversion. Often, those being picked on will feel the world has turned its back on them, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and - in rare, extreme cases - suicide.

The potential for grave impacts is why the rumor mill should not be taken lightly. It is a serious form of harassment.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder then words. But when it comes to gossip, your actions are your words.

We can't always one-up someone in an effort to satisfy our own, selfish agendas. We must strive to be true to one another - for the sake of mutual respect, if nothing else.

Without it, society would reek of our dirty laundry.

Erin Baldwin is a senior at South Eugene High. She can be reached by e-mail at 20Below@
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 28, 2002
Previous Article:Teens follow their own moral compasses when it comes to deciding ethical issues.
Next Article:Right and wrong.

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