By Samuel Bennett-Bywood
Edited by Lana Markulin
How many times have you sat down with your friend and talked about someone for hours on end? We’ve all done it at some point, there’s no point in pretending. However, a part of us feels guilty enough for partaking in an activity so shameful, that we need to conclude with “but we love them though”, as if it absolves any moral reprehensibility. This is by no means a new phenomenon, as women in the Middle Ages who were accused of gossiping were often forced to wear a “scold’s bridle” on their heads, keeping them from talking. Let’s not forget that the word “gossip” itself has some pretty negative connotations. I mean, just say it out loud – “gossip”. It sounds like something you would find at the bottom of a murky pond, right alongside leeches and slimy algae. But is gossiping really that unethical, or is it just a sexist taboo and a relic of medieval close-mindedness?
Before tackling this question, it’s interesting to note that research conducted by the company “OnePoll”, suggests that men gossip on average 30% longer a day than women do. Therefore, this issue is equally, if not even more, relevant to men than it is to women; in fact, gossiping comes with a host of benefits that compensate for its negative stigma.
Gossiping about a third party is often one of the best tools for social bonding. Sharing your feelings, bad or good, about someone with your friends, is not only a fruitful and engaging conversation topic but also a great way to build a connection with your peers through mutual agreement. It also reveals a lot about your shared opinions and experiences and allows you to learn as much about your gossip partner’s personality as the victim of the gossip. I mean, what better way to cement your relationship with someone than by tearing apart a mutual acquaintance behind their back? It’s practically a rite of passage!
Not only does gossiping promote friendship and understanding between the gossipers, but also strengthens the community by acting as a form of social control. If someone is behaving in a way deemed inappropriate or hurtful to others, gossiping about them can alert other people to the situation. Additionally, the threat of being gossiped about means that people are less likely to act maliciously. Don’t just take it from me; the most widely accepted theory for why there are so few serial killers in the Philippines is a result of their so-called “chismosa culture”, roughly translating to “gossip culture”. Gossiping is said to be so embedded in Filipino culture that one article even suggests that “you will be busted before you make a move”. While I’m not claiming to be reinventing penicillin every time my friends and I laugh about that “certain somebody’s” awful awful taste in music, I can feel at peace knowing that I am single-handedly saving the lives of many unsuspecting members of the public (go me!).
Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But what about Kant? What about the categorical imperative, treating humans as a means in themselves?” Well, let me tell you a little secret about our favourite ethical philosopher (between you and me) – if Kant had spent a little more time partying and having a social life, maybe he wouldn’t have been such an uptight, conservative, puritanical, wet blanket; just saying…
If there’s one thing I want you to get from this article, it is that you are absolutely justified in being the blabbermouth you are! Gossiping may not be the most intellectually stimulating activity, nor the most noble pursuit, but it is a time-honored tradition that brings people together and keeps communities safe. So, the next time you find yourself in the middle of a juicy goss sesh, don’t feel guilty – just remember that you’re doing your civic duty.