I must confess. The rows of gossip magazines lined in the grocery aisles, look like a set of dominoes, as I pick up the US Weekly, my eyes gravitates toward Star. Do I really care if Kristen Stewart sat on Robert Pattionson’s lap in a bar? Do I really need to know if Jenifer Aniston is dating John Mayer again? The people behind these headlines are not integral to my life in anyway and I know they will never think of me, but yet, I’ve probably stopped my day to learn about them. Why?
It’s the power of gossip.
Long tem studies show that the content of gossip is universal and frequent. People spend almost a fifth or two-thirds or more of their day gossiping. If you calculate those numbers over a lifetime, it adds up to so much wasted time.
And I am guilty of it too. I’ve listened to gossip, participated in it, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve questioned the value in it. Often times, I’ve literally felt a bad taste in my mouth, thinking about the absurdity of such conversations. Most of the time there is no way to determine the veracity of what I am hearing, every time one person passes the story along, something changes, embellishments, exaggerations and more opportunities of untruth peak in between the words.
And really, the more problematic part is gossip’s destructive nature. People may base opinions on other people simply on what they heard about said individual. Knowing how gossip provides little utility, why does it penetrate so many people’s lives?
There may be several reasons why, insecurity probably topping the list. As people, we look for validation for our own behaviors, wanting to make ourselves feel better, by possibly denigrating someone else. It’s unappealing. It’s wrong. But it happens.
But can you stop it in your own life? You probably can. But I think it is a conscious decision.
I think you have to ask yourself, every time, would you say what you are about to say, if that person was listening?
What do you think about gossip? Have you made an opinion about someone based on what you’ve heard about him or her? Do you have any solutions to stopping gossip? What do you do if you have a friend who only wants to gossip?
For me, gossiping about people I know is not worth the regret I feel later- so I try my best not to. However, for some reason, I feel like gossiping about the kardasians or people that neither party knows is not as bad- gossiping to the extent of- I don’t like her new haircut or his taste in clothes is odd etc.
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin resolves to stop gossiping, even while suggesting that there is a social use to gossip. It helps us figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to others in our peer group. (I wish I could remember more, but my copy of the book is in a room with a sleeping baby.) 🙂
Like Naseem, I often feel regretful after I choose to gossip. (I’m embarrassed to admit that) I get a little jolt of adrenaline when I do gossip – or read some snarky comment about a celebrity in a magazine – but I usually feel better about myself when I avoid either.
I’ve stopped gossiping, or nearly so. It’s too much work, the negativity is too much to handle, and it always, always comes back around in ways that make me uncomfortable and downright ill. That being said, I do love to read celebrity gossip. Guess that kind of makes me a hypocrite! =>
Perhaps it is age related as I no longer want to or like to gossip. I went out Saturday night with two Mom friends and they spent half the night talking about mutual absent friends, gossiping about this one being pregnant with a third baby and how she is so unsuited to being a mother of three, then on to her husband and how awful he is, then on to another who has just had her second baby and how badly she is coping and how her husband just up and left for a business trip, how they don’t really like another Mom friend they socialize with all the time. On and on it went and I just so did not want to be part of it. It holds no purpose, like you it does not make me feel good either, even just hearing it.
Gossip is a word with deeper meanings than sometimes we are willing to put on it. Are we gossiping when we confide in family members? Are we gossiping when we confide in friends? Are we gossiping when we tell even one person what is going on with so-and-so? Just when you think you aren’t gossiping you realize you might be, and so you try again the next day to love better.
The major problem with gossip is that it usually comes back and bites one on the bum… so I don’t do it. I’m not happy to listen to gossip, either.
I have a family that is, unfortunately, obsessed with gossip. Very rarely can I tell one person in my family something without the whole “clan” knowing about it 2 hours later. When my husband proposed to me, he asked my sister to hold the ring for him. She told my entire family what was happening after he asked her not to. So, when I came home with my happy news, the only thing anyone had to say was, “Oh, yeah. We know.” It was hurtful and disappointing.
I’ve never had a stomach for gossip, but like you admitted that doesn’t mean it never touches my life. It truly takes effort to abstain. Thanks for giving us all something to think about today.
While reading your post, I had to wonder, what really constitutes as gossip – asking about the well-being of a person and receiving the answer or more – and then you answered my question with your last line: “I think you have to ask yourself, every time, would you say what you are about to say, if that person was listening?”
Yes, you nailed it. I don’t enjoy gossip; in fact, I quit a job abruptly once because the office politics facilitated gossip and I hated that. The false faces. The polarizing effect of cliques. But have I ever been guilty of it? Yes. Unfortunately some of my friends do partake and I admit sometimes I participate but given the choice, I would remove myself from the situation altogether. The negativity is exhausting and it leaves such a bad taste in my mouth.
Thought-provoking. I try not to. I try really hard!
“The more problematic part is gossip’s destructive nature” – yes to that, and also, it feels like an extraordinary waste of time in an already overloaded day.
I will say, sometimes celebrity gossip offers an area of “commonality” from which to begin a conversation with someone. The eventual communication with that person may be important, and the ease with which we may comment on these people we don’t know at all forms a bridge to other more substantive exchange.
In and of itself? Noise, for some of us. And apparently for others, harmless fun.
I’m with Stacia in saying no to gossiping, but yes to reading it. That feels like a healthier way to approach what might be a sort of social addiction. But I only enjoy reading about the famous and the important (such a big difference, huh?); I don’t enjoy following most reality TV characters. The way they talk about each other, and the way fans talk about them, feels wrong, feels personal. I suppose that’s because they look more like “regular” people? Like us, and people we know?
Loved your insights about the “opportunities for untruth” that gossiping creates in the passing along of stories we only heard. So, so true.
The sad thing about the celebrity gossip mags is that I no longer know who the majority of the stars are! I think gossips pulls us in excitedly and then leaves us with overwhelming guilt later. And then we use the excuse that if it’s family it’s not gossip but information. I try not to succumb to it, but like most humans, I am guilty. My hubby rags on my sister and I and says men don’t gossip…however, I beg to differ after listening to a few conversations. They probably aren’t as harsh and their gossip is a bit different than females.
Do you know, in the last six months or so I’ve come to the realization that it really doesn’t matter to me what other people do with their lives. Though that may sound callous, it isn’t meant to. It just means that somehow a light bulb went off in my head and made me realize that it is their life. Not mine. And I don’t want them judging or discussing mine. So I try to stay away from it. Does it mean I never talk about friends, or people I know? No. But I try to do it from a place of caring. If that’s even possible.
I’m guilty of having joined gossip when I was younger but as I got older I just really developed a distaste for it. There are a number of reasons, but the one that really prompted me to stop was the realization that, without fail, the friend that you gossip *with* one day always ends up being the friend that you gossip *about* before long. Gossip is lack of loyalty. I didn’t like the person I became when I talked about others. Thankfully, many people outgrow this. But when I do hear gossip now (sadly, now it’s almost always gossip about someone else’s child), I just go “hm” or say something insubstantial like “Yeah, I don’t know…” and change the subject. People who gossip can’t continue forever if the co-conversationalist isn’t feeding into it.