Like Wildfire: Why do we gossip so much?

Image courtesy of Rachel’s Secret, flickr.com

I will admit now, I love gossip. Now it’s your turn, admit you love it. Now address why you do it.

We’ve grown up in a generation where gossip has become more important than ever. It keeps web traffic alive on TMZ, it put bloggers like Perez Hilton on our radar, and it started shows like Gossip Girl, casting a spotlight on our obsessions with each other’s lives. More importantly, our obsessions with seeing people we love and equally the people we hate, fall off the pedestal we’ve built for them.

We love to talk, and it’s not just women, either. Men are just as guilty as women in indulging in the art of secret sharing. We share information that is not ours to divulge, but we enjoy being the one to know all the gossip. In the course of gossip sharing it all becomes like a game of Chinese Whispers, and so it becomes impossible to find the perpetrator of big mouth syndrome. It is in fact, the perfect crime. We like to believe that information is power, and when we know the sordid details of a mistake that nobody else does, there’s a sense of superiority.

The hidden truth behind gossip is, it’s not because we have nothing better to do. In fact, we have a lot of better things to do, but where is the fun in it? There’s not a single inkling of joy in paying our bills and talking about how we’re going to have to live on Tesco Value cheese until pay day. The fun is when people make mistakes and we realise they’re not as happy as they would have us believe. That’s the reason people gossip, to comfort themselves in knowing it’s not just them who make these mistakes, and that their lives aren’t the only ones to be scarred by misfortune. You better whip out your best black celebrity sunglasses and cheap hair dye, because when it’s your turn for humiliation there will be no disguise to protect you from the adversity of shame that gossip brings.

Here’s a little anecdotal evidence of how something like Gossip Girl really did reflect our lives (or maybe just my life). I wanted to be Blair Waldorf, she’s one of my ultimate fictional heroes. Make of that what you will, but unfortunately one day last year my house mate at university lovingly informed me I was more of a Serena. I was adamant this was one hundred percent inaccurate. Even though it couldn’t have been more true at the time. Damn, does that at least mean I have good hair?

The point is, once I realised this about myself- and as much as I wanted to seek Blair Waldorf-esque revenge on someone who had wronged me on more than one occasion, I chose to shut up and move on. Because gossip wasn’t going to gain me anything and it wasn’t leading to anywhere positive, only to run around in circles until I was dizzy with resentment. We can all say we’ll take the high road, but we all know we’ll continue to gossip. We couldn’t fulfil our fundamental social needs without it.

And as for me, plenty of you will have dirt on me. But I also have dirt on you, so let’s stay friends and keep some skeletons where they belong, in our poor wannabe Gossip Girl closets. Nothing spells solidarity like secrets.

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