Did you ever play the telephone game? If you haven’t, it’s when a group of people pass on a phrase or words to the people next to them, passing it down the line. When it gets to the last person, they say it aloud so everyone can see how much it’s changed.
The Telephone game is really about the reliability of spreading ideas/gossip, etc. As each person tells it, it most likely changes a bit, either because the person hearing wasn’t actually listening or, they simply forgot what was said to them, so they improvise — sometimes subconsciously.
Social Media False News and Gossip
Today, social media is kind of like the telephone game, only with far reaching consequences. The short story “The Triple Filter Test” is a marvelous lesson in idle gossip:
The Triple Filter Test
Socrates was Greek philosopher known for his great knowledge and wisdom. One day an acquaintance of his met the wise man and said, “ I just heard something about your friend. Do you want to know about it?”
To which Socrates replied calmly , “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to test importance of what you’re going to say. Let it pass through the triple filter test. The first filter of your information is truth. Are you absolutely sure that whatever you are about to tell me about my friend is true?”
“Well, no,” the man said, “I just heard about it from somewhere”
“All right, so you are unsure about the truthfulness of your statement you are about to make. Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me a good thing?” said Socrates.
“Umm, no” answered the man softly.
“So, you want to tell me something bad about my friend which you’re not certain it’s true. You failed the first two test but you may still pass the test if you pass the final filter, the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.” replied the man shamefully.
“Well, if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good or even useful, why waste your time to tell it to me at all,” concluded Socrates.
Although there is nothing wrong with talking about other people, it is what we talk about them that really matters. It is so easy to fall into a pattern of unconscious criticism, doubt and misunderstanding while involving oneself in a conversation about a third person. This short story of the great Greek philosopher Socrates could help us in making a better judgment about the information that we consume every day. The triple filter test can act as a very useful tool for blocking all the information that is not important to our lives.
I wish we used this reasoning more, because it would save us all a whole lot of unnecessary strife. Today, it seems like we are inundated with malicious gossip and fake news — every where we turn, someone is spreading falsehoods and in every case, someone is affected negatively by this maliciousness. With social media and other forms of near-instant communications, these lies, untruths and gossip spread like wildfire.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…
I happen to think the three filter test is something we can all learn from:
- Are you absolutely sure that whatever you are about to tell/share with people is true?”
- Is what you are about to say or share a good thing?”
- Is what you want to tell/share going to be useful to anyone and if so, how?”
Some people seem to take glee in spreading lies, half-truths and gossip and that says a lot about their character, or lack of. But when we hear it from them and then send it on, sort of like in a high-tech version of the telephone game, we’re really just as bad. Before we share/tell something that may not be true/fair/kind or even if only partially true, we need to ask ourselves the filter questions. The world is stressful and harsh enough without needlessly contributing to its chaos, so we can all do our part in reducing this negative energy.
“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” – Dorothy Allison
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Proverbs 6:16-19
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” – Exodus 23:1