Gossip: Is It That Bad?

Why does a person gossip? Is gossip always bad? Why should not a person gossip? Is it possible to escape from gossip? It is perhaps very difficult to answer all these questions. But it is a fact that gossip is a communication tool that people cannot escape, no matter how wrong it is considered, plays a leading role in interpersonal communication and gives people a sense of pleasure by arousing curiosity. In this article, it will be discussed why mankind has been gossiping since ancient times, the functions of gossip, and whether a world without gossip can exist.



Illustration by Vicki Nerino.


Gossip can be defined as talking about a third person who is not here. But is gossip always negative and always destructive? It seems that it is possible to say that gossip does not have to be bad. Because there is also gossip that is positive or neutral. In fact, according to research done in the UK, only 3% to 4% of gossip is destructive and malicious. At the same time, one way to understand and position oneself is to talk about where the other person stands. The position of the other provides a reference point for determining one's own position. In short, gossip can be a tool that a person uses to evaluate himself based on the other.

Looking at the other functions of gossip, it is possible to state that sometimes gossip can be made purely for information exchange, or it can be used as a tool to escape from everyday life. Sometimes a person may turn his attention to someone else to avoid himself, so gossip allows him to escape from his own problems and troubles, even for a short time. Moreover, it is an undeniable fact that gossip connects people and creates a group consciousness. The third person who was gossiped about is kicked out of the group so that he or she is now the 'other'. Those who gossip can get closer to each other with the pleasure of finding a common ground between them. Thus, the importance of gossip in building and shaping relationships between people easily can be seen.


Painting by Sandro Nocentini.


What about celebrity gossip? It is always fun to talk about celebrities and it is not even considered that much bad to gossip about them. A close look at this issue from a slightly different perspective demonstrates that celebrity gossip offers people a lot of social information about the period they live in. Because gossiping is also giving to a clue about the social pattern of a certain period. It also points out the moral values, beliefs, social culture, and ethics of that period of time. For example, while homosexuality was seen as a shameful phenomenon that celebrities tried to hide until thirty or forty years ago, in the age of today, celebrities who are gay have no hesitation in hiding it, because the 21st-century society is accepted homosexuality as a normal phenomenon. While this actually reveals the social dimension of gossip, it may also show that gossip also offers historical information to future generations about the social culture and social behavior of today.

To sum up, it seems that gossip is a phenomenon that starts from the individual and spreads to the whole society. People often resort to gossip when communicating with each other, even if they are not aware of it. It is perhaps the most enjoyable way to build imaginary groups, establish intimacy with another person, identify one's position in society, and finally exchange information. It is a fact that there is malicious gossip that could be destructive in people's lives, but it should not be forgotten that most of the gossip human makes are positive or neutral. One may not know why he is still gossiping. But, one thing is certain: Everyone gossips and there is no avoiding it.


References:

  • Beersma, Bianca, and Gerben Kleef. “Why People Gossip: An Empirical Analysis of Social Motives, Antecedents, and Consequences.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 42, 2012, doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00956.x.


  • “The Sociology of Gossip: Elaine Lui at TEDxVancouver.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 5 Feb. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFDWOXV6iEM.

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Umut Açıkgöz

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