I have some instructions for reading this article:
- Stop reading now.
- Open Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iTunes, or whatever music provider you listen to
- Find Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through The Grapevine.”
- Play the song while reading this.
“I read online that…”
“I heard from somewhere…”
“Joan from accounting told me…”
Before long, a statement becomes a rumor, as it is passed from person to person without the necessity of supporting evidence.
And it happens in both personal and professional settings.
Rumors do not equal reality.
Here are some common rumors (or urban legends):
- The secret ingredient in Dr. Pepper is prune juice (not true)
- The moon landing was fake and filmed in a Hollywood studio
- Giant alligators live in the sewers of New York City
While urban legends may be right, they are often wrong. That said, I think we can all agree; they make for some great tales, like this one:
Years ago, an Australian woman was coming home from a night out with her friends. She opened her front door to find her dog lying on the floor—not breathing.
Immediately the woman put the dog in the car to run it to the animal clinic. Unfortunately, her dog died.
After leaving the animal at the clinic, she decided to go back home.
On the way home, she received a call from the vet. He said that the woman should leave her house immediately because the dog had choked on a person’s finger and the invader could still be in the house.
Hearing this news, the woman called the police, who went to the scene and found a burglar hiding in a closet. He was missing a finger and had fainted due to blood loss.
Do you believe it?
An urban legend that spread across the world.
Or my favorite that I heard when I was teaching college:
Two students took a ski trip before their chemistry final and didn’t get back in time to take an exam. They told their professor that they got a flat tire.
So the professor gave them the final exam the next day with two questions:
- “For five (5) points, what is the chemical formula for water?”
- “For ninety-five (95) points, which tire?”
Do you believe it?
I believe the story is apocryphal, but who knows?
Urban legends spread far, wide, and fast.
So when you hear something from somebody, read something online, or get some information at work, do your due diligence.
Sleuth it out.
The way to do this is simple:
- Don’t take things at face value. Look it up!
- Validate the source. Is the source reliable? Impartial? What is their motive for sharing the information?
- Run it through Google and look for independent corroboration, i.e. validate the evidence.
- BONUS: Run it through Snopes. Snopes can give you a data point to see if something is an urban legend.
Either way, the truth can start and end with you.