That’s a good thing!
According to Wikipedia, Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. For centuries, gossip has spread stories and helped individuals shape their opinions and beliefs. The recent explosion of social media, across all platforms, helps us to tell our stories and share our points of view.
Evolutionary adaptations are changes that occur over time to help a species evolve. This applies to physical changes as well as psychological changes. For humans, storytelling and advanced communication skills are in this category. Consider what an advantage for survival it is to be able to share knowledge. For instance, the earliest shared recipe dates to about 1800 B.C. (http://bit.ly/2gI70ku)
Gossip, too, belongs in this category. The informal sharing of stories, both true and rumored to be true, gossip continues to be an important means by which people can share news, shape reputations, and contribute to social control.
Social media is also a way of sharing stories. Some may be true, and some may not. It is up to the reader, or listener, to determine that. It is also emerging as a powerful tool of social control.
Modern communication methods and the explosion of social media have breathed new life into the sharing of information. While gossip has generally negative connotations, it does help to keep us safe. Individuals can share their knowledge and experiences even if they are not powerful members of society or leaders of the community. Traditionally women were depicted as the gossipers, which in fact makes perfect sense. They would have been the members of society with the least power. By sharing their experiences, and the knowledge they gained from talking to one another, they could avoid harm and gain valuable knowledge.
Visits for tea, chatting with friends and social time with one another, helped women share ideas of homemaking, child rearing, cooking and so on, all of which help contribute to a stronger society.
Social media too has given a voice to individuals, and groups, who have not had a strong presence in main stream media. As a way of reaching an small or specific audience it can’t be beat.
In order to encourage interaction with a particular audience, social media makers need to be accessible and open to feedback. Just as gossiping is a two way conversation, so is social media. We have to be open to feedback, both positive and negative, and be prepared to be challenged on our ideas. Just like a good old-fashioned gossip, there are plenty of online tools that we can use to find an audience that will either help to spread our news around.
I am not saying that gossip is good or bad. Good manners usually dictate that we should not share news if we are not sure if it is true. The same self governance should apply to our online manners. We should not be sharing “idle gossip” as fact unless we know that it is true.
Catherine Whittaker COM0014