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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Spilling Tea: What's the Good Gossip?

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Let's talk gossip! But first, I'm going to need you to watch the required viewing above.
Done? OK. Let's talk about this video- First and foremost, I need to address the dancing. Remember in the '80s when you could be a sub-par dancer and STILL have a music video? Also, did Bananarama invent dabbing? And I love the random costumes that make an appearance. It's like the costume designer had some pieces left from a previous project and decided to throw them into this video shoot. Why not? It was the 1980s! All you needed was a coke filled fever dream and access to a VHS camera.

But this blog isn't about dabbing or the smart economic practices of 1980's costume designers, so let's stay on topic, dammit. Last week, I asked for topics for my blog, and you all sure delivered. There were so many ideas that I had a hard time choosing one. But, I did, obviously; otherwise, there wouldn't be a blog post. Gah, keep up. The topic I chose came from my friend Boopsie. She suggested gossip. Not the amazing band fronted by Beth Ditto (although that would be an amazing post), but the actual practice of gossiping. And in true me not knowing anything form, I had to do some research on the topic. I went out and got that "know."  And because I like to pretend that I'm an actual big girl journalist sometimes, I broke it down into "Who, What, Where, When, Why."


Who gossips? Um, just a group of people called "everyone," ever heard of them? A study done at the University of California, Riverside shows that people spend on average 52 minutes a day gossiping, and it is split evenly along (heteronormative) gender lines. Although the study doesn't break down nongender conforming or nonbinary identifying, it does indicate that ALL people gossip and one identifying group does not do it more than the others. But more importantly- 52 minutes???? That seems to be a lot of time. In fact, that's the more time than an episode of Gossip Girl (without the commercial breaks, obvi). XOXO everyone. You ALL gossip.

WHAT?: Well, we gossip about everything, but here's what might surprise you- according to an NPR article,  the majority of what we talk about is not bad; instead it's mundane, idle chit chat about your neighbor's new car or your facebook friend's blog post about gossip. In fact, 3/4 of all gossip is not trash talk; it's just small talk niceties. I have a theory, though, that it seems like the majority of gossip is trash talk because you remember the juicy gossip, not the boring nice stuff.

So, what about the 1/4 of gossip that is bad? Well, yes- there's that. But, according to the same NPR article, even shit talk has an upside: it can make the subject of the gossip change bad habits. Let's say that you have a blog and all you do is push your blog on people. When you meet up with your friends, instead of asking them about themselves, you tell them about a blog post you wrote about gossip. You then leave the room to check your phone to see how many page views you have, when you hear them talking about how irritating it is that all you do is talk about your blog. It's then that you realize that you might be a bit too self-absorbed with your own goings on, that you have become that annoying blogger....which is to say- a blogger. You then resolve to shut up a bit about your blog and make sure you are listening to others when they speak. This is a hypothetical, of course....but you get the point. Gossip can point out bad habits and cause the subject to strive for better behavior.

Gossip is also theorized to be an evolutionary survival trait. If you read that Regina George "is the nastiest skank bitch I've ever met. Do not trust her. She is a fugly slut," you might think twice about hopping in her convertible. Or maybe something more rooted in the real world and less shallow- if you hear that a restaurant has made several of your friends sick, then you would probably avoid that restaurant. Survival skills!

Of course, there's also baseless rumors and harmful gossip. And that stuff IS bad. The spreading of harmful rumors can cause the victim of gossip physical and mental illness. According to Web MD (ever heard of it?), harmful gossip can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic attacks, guilt, and in extreme cases, suicide. 

So yeah; bad gossip is, bad. Really, really bad. It can cause irreversible damage and can follow the victim for a long time- even their whole lives. And the further the rumor spreads, the more harmful and grotesque it becomes, like a slanderous snowball...or Trump's hairline. 

WHEN?: At what age do we gossip? Um, all of them. It starts out when we are young and continues throughout our adult lives. You may think that teenagers are the worst at gossip- remember how those rumors of Richard Gere and the hamster spread? Or Lil' Kim and the stomach pump? Interestingly enough, both of those rumors change generationally. It was Richard Gere in my generation, but I've heard it attributed to Marylin Manson in later years. Same with Lil' Kim, only it changed to Lindsay Lohan. Food for thought, I guess. Oh, don't Google any of those rumors on a work computer. The point is- we don't seem to stop gossiping. Anecdotally, my grandmother was THE biggest gossip. I knew every rumor about all the little old ladies in Jamesburg, NJ.

WHERE?: Everywhere. But mostly where people congregate on a daily basis. As kids, it's in school or on the playground. Then in college dorms. Later it's at the water cooler in the office. In my grandma's case, her bridge club. Anywhere that you can interact with someone and talk about a common friend, foe or acquaintance. It's rampant in online communities too; I've personally seen drag, burlesque, crafter, even true crime aficionado communities divided by gossip.

I would argue, though, that the most dangerous place it happens is on the Internet. Thanks, Al Gore. Aside from the terrible occurrences of cyberbullying (just Be Best, right?), I think it's even more dangerous in the spread of fake news. And not the kind of "fake news" that Donald Trump tweets about every time a news outlet writes a factual story about him; I'm talking about actual fake news- the kind that Russia used to meddle in our elections. Or, whatever the lanced boil of a human being Alex Jones is spewing. The problem with that fake news, according again to Web MD, is that even once the fake rumors are debunked, it's already out there in the zeitgeist. Just like the Richard Gere and Lil' Kim stories- they are false but continue to get spread or are already planted firmly in one's beliefs. So, even though Pizza-Gate was a fake news story, the damage has already been done and it's much harder to get the truth out once a false story has been spread; but unlike the Richard Gere story, the US democracy is at stake. 

WHY?: That's the real question; why do we do it? Well, we've already established that most gossip is actually good. So, for the most part, we do it because we care about each other. Aw, cute. But what about the bad stuff? Well, there's the aforementioned survival instinct. But I believe it's also a way that we can fit into social circles. It's a way that we can show camaraderie with those that we might not normally have that much in common. Or it's a way for us to fit into our surroundings. We all want a seat at the cool kids' table, and sometimes participating in bad gossip is our ticket. It's not a good thing, but it's what we do. I think we also have that feeling of "if they are talking about someone else, then they are not talking about me."

But everyone talks about someone at some point. So, how do we continue the good gossip, while shutting down the bad? The good news is, as I've already pointed out, the majority of the gossip we spread is good. Yay! As for the bad stuff, Web MD recommends shutting down nasty rumors once you hear them. That, however, is easier said than done for most of us. Juicy gossip is juicy for a reason and we all love to hear it. From my research, the best attack on bad gossip is to really take into account all the facts; if something seems WAY to unlikely, it probably is. When it comes to the spreading of fake news on the internet, really do your due diligence. Check the source; are they a reliable outlet? Look at the wording of the article; is it articulate and unbiased or is it more like an old man yelling at the wind. 

In both personal gossip and fake news, I think you should use the ALL CAPS rule. If any article or person is speaking in all caps, it's probably bullshit. 

Look, I know I was supposed to get some "know" and I don't think that I solved the problem of gossip...but at least we know a bit more about why we do it and I did find out that we are not quite the garbage people we thought we were. But if you are prone to rampant rumor spreading, maybe you buy your very own Burn Book and write your garbage thoughts there, instead of speaking that trash out loud? Once you get it out of your system, tear those hurtful pages out and burn them; turn it into an actual burn book. Or just use it to spread the hot goss about your cats.  You can trash talk about and to your cats; they can't spread the hurtful rumors...because no one listens to cats. 

Get your own copy here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LOL I trash talk my dog all day long! Thanks for spreading that sweet sweet knowledge now I don’t feel as guilty about my daily morning gab sessions with Hazel­čść
-Madame Gem

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