If gossip spreads like wildfire in a small town, it spreads more like a gasoline-drenched cheetah on social media in a small town.
The Wall St. Cheat Sheet, a popular financial news website headquartered in Asheville, posted a story yesterday saying that “sources” had confirmed the Obamas were moving to Asheville post-president. They first posted last week that the first family was looking, and then that a purchase was “confirmed” Monday.
Of course this posting has made some serious waves. Within hours people from every neighborhood in the city have posted on Facebook and Twitter about how and why theirs will be the ’hood where the president and his family reside. Some are ready to pop the champagne, others are threating it’s “time to move.”
The blog AskAsheville.com has already posted “10 reasons Obama is moving to Asheville” and dozens of local social media users have already begun debating the minutia of how they’ll fit all that secret service into Biltmore Forest and the threat it poses to long lines at 12 Bones.
If you’re taking Facebook’s word for it, Sasha and Malia are already down at Splashville and Michelle is over at Mobilia picking out sectionals for the family’s new den.
The site admits the White House has not confirmed the rumor. There are no records with the county’s Register of Deeds office with an Obama attached to them, and Cattleya Gaines, deputy Register of Deeds, said they had no other evidence of a sale.
White House reporter Paul Brandus tweeted out later on Monday that the White House “denies that President and Mrs. Obama have bought a retirement home in Asheville, NC (they do like it there).”
Now, if anyone can stealthily purchase a home under the traditional house-hunting radar, I would imagine that person would be the President of the United States. He has ways.
But I think it’s important to look at what kind of evidence we have to support this rumor and how quickly folks will spread it without batting an eye.
It’s worth noting that the origin of this “breaking news” is listed as “a source close to the Wall St. Cheat Sheet.” I’m no celebrity gossip expert, but I’m pretty sure they teach it in Rumor Mongering 101 that an anonymous “source” giving information that no one else can confirm should be close to the celebrity or public figure you’re talking about, not your own publication.
This may just be a fun presidential summer home bit of gossip — and it could even turn out to be a true bit — but social media users beware: It’s playing with fire to believe everything you read, even if it does go viral.
Volume is not an indicator of truth, and having a Facebook account or a Twitter handle doesn’t make anyone a discerning consumer — it just gives everyone a water cooler over which to spread the questionable word more quickly.