Monday, April 16, 2012


   It’s everywhere you go, and everywhere you don’t. Almost everyone engages in it, from almost every age group (I think I can reasonably exclude infants...although I have suspicions to the contrary). So what is it about human nature that compels us to gossip? Why do we feel the need to spread this specific brand of news and misinformation? I never really gave this subject much thought, but after I did, I came up with some interesting answers...and (lowering my voice and looking around to make sure I’m not being observed) wait until you hear this.
   I would like to assume that everyone knows what gossip is...but I won’t do that, again. I asked someone that question and their reply was “Gossip is...gossip.” Yes...well, anyway, we should probably define gossip since it defining itself isn’t going to cut it.
    Gossip is idle talk or rumour about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted. The term can also imply that the idle chat or rumor is of personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.”
   “The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities.”
   So it seems that gossip is a decidedly negative thing, or perhaps it’s negativity is done by choice. I’m sure very few reading this (if anyone) have not been exposed to gossip. It’s been my experience that most gossip starts off rooted in some sort of fact, no matter how small. The twisting and embellishing of that fact is what makes gossip...well, gossip. But why are so many of us so interested in the dirt of others? I know, there are some reading this that don’t engage in gossip and refuse to listen to it...except when you hear it. I say that because it’s everywhere, and sometimes it’s presented as fact instead of the misinformation (and sometimes disinformation) it really is. I dare say, if you watch any television news, listen to news on the radio, or read news in a newspaper or on the internet, then you are being exposed to gossip.
   The form that gossip takes still doesn’t explain why we are so addicted to it (for those that really are...and you know who you are even if I don’t. After I find out though, I won’t tell anyone...promise). Maybe we are just nosey by nature. We just have to know about the business of another because maybe it makes us feel better about our own. In that light, it may not be an “all bad” thing...this gossip. It might even have some positive social benefits?

Gossip has been researched in terms of its evolutionary psychology origins.[1] This has found gossip to be an important means by which people can monitor cooperative reputations and so maintain widespread indirect reciprocity.[2] Indirect reciprocity is defined here as "I help you and somebody else helps me." Gossip has also been identified by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist, as aiding social bonding in large groups.” perhaps the reason so many are drawn in by gossip is because we naturally seek to bond with each other, and talking smack about each other helps us...come together? Umm...yeah, I can see that.

   I can also see how gossip can be used as an effective diversionary tactic to draw focus away from other areas of importance by manipulating our natural desire to socially immerse. With gossip, we can be kept incognizant of issues that adversely effect us, but are beneficial to those enacting the diversion, but I digress...that subject is for another post (but you didn’t hear that from me).

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