Tuesday, September 13, 2005



Gossiping (2002)

From The Washington Post -- "The Key to Discreet Gossiping" by Judith Martin:

Yes, children, we did used to have blogs. We called them diaries, and they got us into almost as much trouble as yours will get you.

The impulse to record one's every thought, feeling, opinion and experience long predates the home computer. It does not, Miss Manners hastens to add, predate the notions that one has a uniquely sensitive nature to which the world does not show proper attention and appreciation, and that one day it will be realized what a blunder that was on the part of the world.

Friends are not the ideal receptacles for daily confidences that keep making these points, as it does not take long to discover. Their minds wander, causing them to misunderstand or forget what they were told. They are especially prone to forgetting they were told not to tell others. Their emotions don't always come out the way they were supposed to, and they make irritating remarks, such as "You're not being fair" or "I don't see what you're so upset about." Their loyalties shift, leaving them with choice material to use against the very person who supplied it.

Hence, the diary. It had an insatiable appetite for grudges, gossip, love affairs, cultural pronouncements, social criticism and whatever else one chose to put into it. It was the ideal companion, an eager and sympathetic listener who would never betray you in the present but hinted at helping you to fame in the future.

Web logs have a similar lure for those who keep them, with what seem like additional advantages. It is not only that they work faster technologically. They are supposed to supply fame and hordes of eager and sympathetic listeners in the present.

With a diary, the danger was that someone might sneak a peek at it or even steal it and expose one's secrets. With a blog, the fear is that nobody might do so.

So, should I trust the three readers of this blog or not? Or just be grateful that I'm not at work where gossiping has weightier pros and cons, as Beverly West of monster.com explains:

Peter Post, codirector of the Emily Post Institute and coauthor of The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success, argues that there is a lot wrong with a little harmless gossip. "Gossiping and rumor-mongering add stress to the workplace," Post says. "Create stress in the workplace, and you create a situation in which people are not focusing on doing their work." This is why many companies have corporate policies that specifically restrict or prohibit on-the-job gossip and why management may not look kindly on those who engage in it.

But the overall effects of negative gossip don't necessarily suggest you should completely refrain from being in the know about situations around you. In fact, many psychologists believe that not engaging in a little office gossip can actually hurt your career.

Siobhan Mellor, clinical psychologist and author of the research paper, "Gossip -- the Nation's Favorite Pastime," believes that the right kind of gossip can be good for you. "Getting the latest gossip about the behavior of others helps build a social map for what is accepted, weird, bad -- and even what kinds of actions improve our status and what doesn't," she says.

Chagall made this etching for an edition of Gogol's "Dead Souls".

Perfectly Charming Ladies Gossiping (1923-27) by Marc Chagall
[Image from Spaightwood Galleries]

So, I'm confused. Is gossiping good or bad? I don't know. Hey. Let's talk it about it some more. What's your neighborhood anthropologist say? From AllRefer Health:

According to new research to be published in Human Nature, gossip can stamp out bad behaviour, strengthen friendships and circulate important information not available anywhere else. When people huddle to share information about an absent person, it is a deep-seated instinct, the equivalent of social grooming, discovered an 18-month study by two anthropologists, Kevin Kniffin of the University of Wisconsin and David S Wilson of the State University of New York.

Gossip helps in improving relationship, clarifying social status and it reinforces shared values, it said.

"Gossip is about reputation, and that has been intensely important throughout human history, no matter how primitive or sophisticated a society is," the Independent quoted Kniffin, as saying.

He said that gossip could be used as a defence mechanism and it could help an individual in tackling a person who is of bad behaviour. It also helps in making humans more moral, as doing bad things would definitely result in being at the receiving end of gossip.

The study also revealed, that people spend from a fifth to two- thirds of their daily conversation gossiping, with men indulging in it as much as women.

However, while gossiping men were found more egocentric, talking for two-thirds of the time about themselves, while women did so for only a third, preferring to talk about other people.

Oh, I'm skeptical. I don't think a guy like me who has a blog and a web site and a compulsion to make his writing and art public and who likes to prattle on and on and on about whatever comes into his head and who blitzes along obliviously rattling out verbiage to pump up another thin unsubstantial post to fill space for another day before starting to think about repeating the same egomaniacal obsessions the next day gossips as much as --

-- hey -- hey, wait a minute. Where are you going? I'm not finished yet...

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