What Is Gossip?
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines gossip as follows:
1. (noun) a. a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. b. a rumor or report of an intimate nature; a chatty talk; the subject matter of gossip.
2. (intransitive verb) to relate gossip.
Technical definitions aside, what does that mean? What is gossip? Gossip is idle talk borne out of boredom, spite, jealousy, or even rage. It is what people do behind closed doors. It is what people say about a person to others without validating an actual truth. Sometimes this distorted version of factual events is rubbed viciously into the wounds of the person or group of people one intends on hurting. Sometimes such rumors are spread behind a person's back, so to speak. Gossip is rarely good natured.
Cosmopolitan Magazine recently reported that a recommended way of making friends is to gossip. They suggest that a mutual desire to secretly talk about other people will bring individuals together. They suggest that bashing a boss or annoying co-worker will somehow create a commonality that will spark a friendship.
Tabloids all over the world make a living off of spying on celebrities, real or imagined, and reporting any "dirty laundry" they may have uncovered. Often times they take a random, candid photograph of a person at an inopportune time and concoct some twisted story to fit their 'revealing' picture. Not only is what they are doing illegal, not to mention immoral, it is validated through the countless ignorant public purchasing said tabloids in a vain attempt to feel better about their lives through the misfortunes of others.
The Other Side
What about the people being gossiped about? Why does it seem that people are no longer entitled to privacy? With celebrities, political members, and royalty, the public seems to enjoy seeing the worst in them. There seems to be a demand to show people we have deemed important, brought down to their low levels of morality or status.
With 'everyday' people, the same theory seems to hold some merit. It would appear that gossipers have a desire to talk down about other people in an effort to feel better about themselves in some aspect. There is no regard to how their harsh words will affect the person being gossiped about.
It seems unclear how gossiping became such a prevalent means of personal reporting however the aftermath has been being reported upon in increasing numbers. Consider the large number of school aged children losing their grip on reality and purposefully hurting the classmates that tortured them with incessant gossip and teasing. Consider the number of celebrities physically assaulting members of the press after repeated requests for privacy.
While the argument can be made that celebrities knew what they were getting into on their quest to become famous, it has been proven that the gossip tabloids have become increasingly more aggressive in their tactics. Employees of such magazines have been caught sifting through trash, climbing trees to see over privacy fences, hiding out on personal property, even breaking and entering and obstruction of traffic in order to get their story.
Privacy is on the decline and we are buying right into it. There have been verified reports of people losing their ability to rationalize, turning into paranoid individuals no longer able to tolerate being seen in public. Some people have committed suicide and cited cruel gossiping and taunting by peers as their reason. Still others have suffered with a poor self-esteem for years, even life, through an inability to rise above the nastiness of others. Good reputations have been ruined. Honest careers have been destroyed. Innocent people have even been wrongfully sentenced as the result of another person's slander. And yet the viciousness continues.
Until we stop buying tabloids and start persecuting or inflicting some form of appropriate punishment on those that willfully gossip, this condition will continue to deteriorate. We are responsible for what we do and say and we must acknowledge that our words, no matter how innocent you may have been, do affect others. It is why we need to practice being kind rather than being nasty. We may get hurt, but I, for one, would rather do the right thing and be betrayed than do the wrong thing and it go unpunished. Whether you believe in religion or Karma or nothing at all, 'saying nothing and appearing the fool is better than opening your mouth and proving it' (author unknown).