How gossip works

How gossip works

The definition of the word ‘gossiper’ in the Oxford English dictionary reads as thus: one who likes to hear and spread gossip about the private affairs of others. Gossip is even referred to in the Bible. Proverb 18: says, the words of gossip are like the choice morsels: they go down in the inner parts of the body. (Nope, not a clue, either).

Gossip is a secret craving that we cannot resist, and I’m a paid-up-member of that fraternity. When I hear a piece of salacious gossip, I immediately feel a compulsion to pass it on. In fact, I’m very adept at it.

My expertise in this field was evoked when I’d recently read an article by the Style Magazine’s journalist, Dolly Alderton. In her article, she reiterates a piece of gossip that she recalls concerning the ‘gay movie star’ who puts his wives on mutually agreed, career-enhancing contracts. I knew exactly who she was referring to.

Around the late 80s, I’d made a casual acquaintance with a woman who worked in PR for the movie industry. She was deliciously indiscreet but somehow had selective memory on any confidential agreement she might have signed? She was assigned to look after the aforementioned actor while he was here with his wife, promoting his latest movie. She had let slip that she had to book a separate hotel room for his wife and then was compelled to explain why, because the vacuous personality vacuum that I assume at times, thought he snored.

I’d actually felt the weight of this classified information bearing down on me. I’d felt somehow empowered knowing his secret. But it was also self-evident to me that the movie industry’s hierarchy had placed pressure on him to conceal his sexuality and to present an image of a heterosexual, macho, movie star to enhance his box office appeal. He is not a lone wolf in doing this. In these slightly progressive times, many still feel the need to hide their sexuality.

Therefore, is gossip just harmless fun? Gossip can be a canker that can spread and cause humiliation if you’re the subject of the hearsay. I can speak with conviction here, as I was once the object of salacious gossip (not true) when I was temping in an office. It felt intrusive, divisive, and was definitely unsubstantiated, and it made me reflect on how destructive it can be for the other person.

Woman talking on phone

So, why do we like to gossip? Is it to get through the sheer drudgery of the day? The online magazine, Psychology Today, says: gossip, either as natural as conversation or a pathogen, can affect morale, productivity or, even health. A research team from the University of Amsterdam, found that 90% of total office conversation amounted to gossip. Anthropologist believe that through human history gossip had bonded groups.

I believe we have a powerful urge to delve into other people’s lives, especially ones we perceive to live a gilded existence, like the aforementioned actor. We somehow want to find a chink in their amour. My propensity to pass this piece of gossip about him to the masses was based on my supposition that he was conveying the wrong message to those struggling with their sexuality. I’d felt an urge to unmask him and his duplicity.

Then, in the midst of writing this article, I’d bumped into an acquaintance. He is an SA (extra) in films and always likes to fill me in on the productions he’s been working on. He casually disclosed the film he had been cast in, starring ‘the actor.’ I resisted the temptation to divulge my piece of gossip about him. Instead, I’d asked about his personality.

My friend went on to extol his commitment and dedication on set. Yes, he can be a bit tetchy with the crew, takes total control over every aspect of production and likes lobster flown in from Maine for his lunch, but other than that, he’s a nice guy. Pure coincidence? Or a voice telling me to stop spreading unsubstantiated gossip. So from now on, I have made a vow to curb my propensity to spread gossip.

Actually, have you heard the one about the heartthrob actor and the hamster….?

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Sadie Fisher

Sadie always likes to challenge conceptions and to give a different perspective on current issues, on anything that might resonate with people. She writes truthfully, and sometimes against the populist view.