Lawrenceville’s Rumor Mill: Untangling the Grapevine

Arya Vishwakarma ’25 and Harini Venkatesh ’25 in Features | November 11, 2022

In a school community as tightly-knit as Lawrenceville’s, information spreads like wildfire. Rumors spread during nights at the House, in passing conversations, or in between classes, making their way across the student body like the shoots of a depraved plant craving sunlight. Do the benefits of this “grapevine” outweigh the harm it causes?  Is gossip an integral part of the high school experience or a preventable occurrence? In this article, we dig deeper into the pros and cons of the Lawrenceville grapevine by reflecting on our own personal experiences. 

The Big Red Grapevine: Rooted In Good Intentions (Arya Vishwakarma ’25)

As a new III Former, finding where I fit into the School’s complicated social network was as much of a challenge as adapting to my new classes and commitments. I found the girls in the Carter House to be a much-needed resource, providing unconditional support despite only having just met me. This instant feeling of community is undoubtedly intentionally and thoughtfully crafted by the House’s duty team, prefects, and House Council over the summer to start the year strong. It feels obvious that the rumor mill plays such a prominent role in students’ social lives; it’s a natural effect of a boarding school environment that emphasizes connection and fosters closeness. Students are encouraged to be compassionate, help one another, and communicate with their peers. The grapevine provides a safety net, ensuring that if one is visibly struggling, people will not just take notice, but also reach out. Knowing that somebody isn’t okay prompts others in their community to shower them with affirmations and let them know that they have people to help them. It’s easier to tackle problems when you’re not alone. 
The rumor mill also affects one’s control of their reputation. Boarding school allows individuals to redefine themselves: inside of our campus’s wrought-iron gates, you can be anything you want, so long as the grapevine agrees with you. The ability to be known of instead of known can, at times, feel like a double-edged sword, but someone who knows how to wield it can craft an image of themselves that glosses over their flaws, shines in every area, and protects them from vulnerability. “Fake it ‘till you make it” is a philosophy the rumor mill allows as a very real possibility. Project confidence, and rumor will spread that you are confident. Maybe, after everyone else believes that, you will, too.

The Rumor Mill: A Saboteur of Self Esteem (Harini Venkatesh ’25)

I believe that rumors are a permanent fixture of school life. Neither myy virtuous actions—nor my lack thereof—can protect me from being the subject of a harmful rumor. Over the years, I have listened to stories about people that have shaped my opinion of them and driven my interactions with them. Was it right of me to do so? What if I stymied a potential friendship with someone due to a false rumor? Like the game “Telephone,” rumors have a way of mutating as they spread, preventing relationships from forming due to lies germinated by whispers.
 
It’s important to acknowledge the point where gossip becomes detrimental to mental health. I’ve spent countless hours overthinking a singular statement someone has said about me, and those few words have managed to change how others perceived me and how I treated myself. There have been multiple claims made about me pertaining to sensitive topics, all of which were no more than a figment of the spreader’s imagination. From this perspective, it is clear that rumors are both unnecessary and harmful. There is no reason for us to feel the need to use other people’s struggles, hopes, and fears as topics of socialization and entertainment.  

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, it seems that the rumor mill is unavoidable. As long as students stay connected through social media and interpersonal communication, gossip and rumors will circulate among the student body. What is most  important is to be mindful of how your words affect other Lawrentians: rumors can wreck the very relationships that spread them. All one can do is be kind and hope that others are inspired to do the same. We owe it to each other to make sure the fruits of the grapevine are sweet.