Disadvantages of Gossip

Introduction 

“I could not believe it till I saw that online close-up picture of her lips. It is real she has undergone numerous lip fill surgeries.”

 “I bet they have separated as they have not been together in public for some time now.” 

 “How could a rich celebrity like him ask to be paid in order to attend a funeral? Imagine he asked for a bribe to attend his fan’s burial ceremony.”  

The abovementioned statements represent our daily communication encounters. We often hear or spread rumors about other people. Very often, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other news sources present opinions and news based on rumors. Majority of stories presented during face-to-face communications are considered to be gossips, often meant to please audiences or spread misinformation. Gossip entails free discussions or the publication of reports about other people that involve unverified details. Gossip is regarded unethical, but we often participate or become involved in this process to some extent due to the human nature. Why would some newspaper or television editors approve the publication or broadcast of unconfirmed news about an event or a popular person? The principal focus of audio, audio-visual, print media, and online bloggers is the public. Thus, untrue but catchy phrases and interesting news to the audience are normally preferred to boring truthful facts. Anticipated reception of news or conversations encourages people to gossip and spread rumors rather than look for truth in regard to a specific matter. In our daily encounters, we seek to please others by telling them something that interests them. Thus, other people are often discussed in their absence during such conversations. According to Gutcheon, the word gossip emanated from “god-sibling”. The godparents to the same child talked about the person for whom they have a legitimate loving interest. In that case, they were talking about how they would offer support to the person they wanted to protect. Conversely, in the contemporary society, negative gossip can be heard everywhere. Facebook, radio, television, magazines, blogs, workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools are some of the venues where gossip is propagated. We experience various gossip instances when people provide unchecked information about someone they should not tell. Some individuals may say that it is not their business to discuss others, but still they engage in gossiping due to their feelings that they should do it. As a result, we are neither safe from the lure of gossip nor its negative effects. The current paper evaluates recent news posted by The Sun Online, which performed a survey and an interview to affirm that the disadvantages of gossip outweigh its benefits, since it entails the propagation of unverified hearsay. 

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Current Gossip Story

In January 2016, The Sun Online published a story online about the possible split of Billy Connolly’s marriage. The story, titled, “Billy no mate: Comic Connolly not seen with wife Pamela for 9 months”, dealt with the rumors that Connolly and his wife had separated or were planning to separate, since the wife had not accompanied her husband to the National Television Awards ceremonies. The news article indicated that the couple was last together in April 2015. Comic Connolly’s failure to mention his wife, Pamela Stephenson, in his speech when he received his award for his lifetime achievement prompted the rumor. The public wondered why he acknowledged his management, parents, agency, and his daughters who were present without mentioning his wife considering the fact that the couple has been married for 26 years. It was noted that Connolly had not been seen on public with his wife since they attended a New York art show nine months ago. An unidentified source indicated that people were surprised by the comic’s failure to mention his wife, since the awards’ event was a big moment for him. However, no one knew what could be occurring between the two. Connolly’s revelation that he lacked a dancing partner, yet his wife was the third best dancer on TV’s Strictly in 2010, provoked more speculation that something was wrong between them. Connolly even said that he would like to do ballet and that he had learnt tango six months prior to the event day, but he had nobody to dance with him. 

Based on the storyline, claims that Connolly and Pamela could be separating are invalid speculations. The absence of a spouse from the public is not proof that the couple has separated. There are various reasons that can make an individual not to accompany his or her spouse other than separation. For instance, the reason may be that one may decide to stay away from the public. Such decision does not mean that the person is planning to leave his or her marriage. Moreover, people do not always accompany their spouses to major events. Therefore, Pamela’s absence in the National Television does not imply that the two have separated. In addition, Connolly may have decided not to acknowledge his wife for his success due to personal reasons that may not be related to separation. Given that Connolly is a comedian, he could jokingly say that he lacked a dancing partner to entertain the audience. It may not be apparent that after Connolly indicated that he had no dancing partner, he could have been left by his wife. It could be that his wife simply did not want to dance with him. Therefore, my reaction to the story is to urge news agencies to base their stories on facts and desist from the use of speculations that result in creation of gossips. Gossip can cause significant damage to the reputation of the victims and their immediate family members and friends. Therefore, it is not worthwhile presenting stories that are meant to please or persuade audiences or spread misinformation as it may lead to the problems in the victims’ families and aggravate their relationships with others. It may also cause emotional disturbance in the victims.  

By 28th March 2016, another story that disapproved allegations put across by The Sun Online about Billy Connolly had been published on Independent by McGrath. The story was titled “Billy Connolly’s wife Pamela quashes separation rumors”. Pamela revealed the reason she does not accompany her husband on tour. It turned out that Pamela does not join her husband on tour as he likes to make jokes about her in his routines. The comedian’s wife dismissed separation rumors as she told Woman & Home Magazine that the comedian does not like her presence when he is on tour. Therefore, she imagines that the comedian acts funny at her expense. Pamela confirmed that they are happy together as her husband is doing well in life. 

Survey

After confirming that the separation allegations made by online news articles about Billy Connolly were gossip, I decided to perform an online survey to find out the effects of gossip. I realized that gossip could have detrimental effects on individuals, families, societies, and organizations. Therefore, my online survey involved a search using the four phrases, “individuals”, “families”, “the society”, and “organizations”. I searched Google Books, Google Scholar, and Ebsco database for information pertaining to the disadvantages of gossip. After opening the homepage of Google Scholar, I typed the phrase “disadvantages of gossip to individuals”. I later changed the phrase to “disadvantages of gossip to families” and searched for relevant information. I continued changing the phrases and searching for information till I covered all the four categories. Later, I performed a similar search on Google Scholar. After that I opened the Ebscohost page and logged in using my username and password. I clicked on the Ebscohost Web link and chose the Academic Search Premier. I searched the database using the same phrases that I had used to search Google Books and Google Scholar, which helped me gather the final results and record them.       

Results and Discussion

The published books and scholarly articles found through my search revealed much information pertaining to the disadvantages of gossiping. From the results, it was indicated that people are always attracted to bad stories. Therefore, we engage in gossiping and ignore its negative consequences. However, gossiping may have negative consequences for the person spreading unreliable information as when the audience realizes that a person could be lying, they develop a negative attitude towards him or her. Consequently, people create negative attitude towards such people and treat them in a corresponding manner, especially when they spread false information about others in an evaluative manner in their absence. 

According to Michelson and Waddington, the public regards celebrity gossip as an interesting and entraining activity, but they rebuke organizational gossip (see chart1). In organizational settings, gossip is an “unofficial discourse” that threatens order and peaceful administration as it hampers meaningful regulation and control. Gossip amounts to superfluous interference in organizational environments. It questions an organization’s legitimate objectives and actions, which potentially undermines organization management. 

Chart 1: Causes of Gossip

It was also established that gossip destroys the social fabric of community because it tends to separate people due to the spread of negative information. It is difficult for people to interact with a victim of gossip with trust or an open mind once bad rumors about such a person have been spread. According to Izuogu, gossip creates barriers between people who have been working together, decreases productivity, and results in spreading negative feelings. Once false or negative gossip has done damage to an individual’s reputation, it is impossible to revert it with the addition of positive information. Research has shown that positive information is not given as much value as negative information.

Gossip is considered as a waste of time by many people as the gossiper, and his or her audiences engage in an unproductive task. At the workplace, gossip affects the quality of work negatively, as well as causes cynical behavior among employees. It may reduce the morale of fellow staff members. However, gossip hurts the victim most since it affects his or her mental health. It also leads to alienation or self-exclusion, anxiety, and depression among victims. Moreover, gossip leads to the dismissal of good employees from an organization. In addition, gossip at the workplace can be detrimental to the gossipers as it denies them an opportunity to progress their career ranks, since they are perceived to be unprofessional.

Interview 

Given that I wanted to get my colleagues’ views on the disadvantages of gossip, I interviewed Venessa, one of my school mates. Being a lady, Venessa spends much time with many female and male friends. She is also very popular in her institution due to her talent in football, athletics, and volleyball. Consequently, Venessa could not avoid gossiping as she is such a renowned lady. During my interview with her, I asked her questions pertaining to gossip. The first question I asked her was about whether she had ever been part of a gossip encounter about another person, positive or negative. I then asked her whether the gossip changed the attitude of fellow schoolmates towards the victim. In addition, I inquired about the feelings she developed after the news reached the victim and about observable effect the gossip had on the victim. I also asked her whether people have ever gossiped about her and what her feelings were after realization of it. Finally, I wanted to know, from Venessa, how a rumor about her affected her emotions, if her colleagues or other people had ever gossiped about her. 

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Results and Discussion 

I established, from my interview with Venessa, that gossiping can have detrimental effects on the victim, as well as the gossiper. Venessa indicated that she had never gossiped about anyone, but she had been in a group, where her friends were gossiping about another schoolmate. She said that she enjoyed listening to the mocking remarks that her friends made and she even contributed to the discussion. She did not pay much attention even to the fact that the victim of their gossip found out about it and became distressed and isolated. She thought that when people gossip about you, then you are unique and you should be proud of yourself rather than depressed. However, Venessa faced the problem of gossiping to the fullest extent when the same friends that spread a negative rumor about their schoolmate talked bad of her when she had fallen sick and did not attend classes. She told me that according to one of versions why she was ill is that she was overwhelmed by thoughts of her many boyfriends as she was in a dilemma to choose the one to continue dating. They said that she had multiple boyfriends just as she had various talents in games and sports. When the information about what her friends had said about her reached Venessa, she became mentally disturbed and the girl required much time to cope with it. She could not believe that her friends could lie about her. She thought that her friends decided to spread false rumors because they were not happy with their achievements stating that jealousy is the principal cause of gossip (see Chart1).  

Gossip can be used to enhance bullying, isolating, and ostracizing others. In case of Venessa, she was subjected to mental bullying through gossip. Moreover, gossip interferes with privacy. It is unethical to meddle with private matters of individuals. For celebrities, repetitive gossip about them may cause stress, anxiety, or even mental harm, especially when such information is false. At workplaces, gossip can be an agent of harassment and bullying. If a person violates group norms he or she becomes the subject of gossip. Consequently, when Venessa had decided to avoid her friends’ gossip sessions, they decided to gossip about her. Gossip entails the propagation of unfair personal judgments about others. 

Some psychologists have hypothesized that human survival may depend on gossiping. It is presumed that gossip equips individuals with sufficient information that may help them move up the social and corporate ladders. However, it should be noted that gossip contributes to downward and sideway movements by individuals from the social and corporate ladders. The psychologists have also indicated that bad gossip can destroy one’s reputation (see Table 1) and often leads to self-criticism. In case of Venessa, she experienced tension and fear after she realized what her friends had said about her. They had tarnished her reputation and she felt helpless and distressed. 

Table 1

Disadvantages of Gossip

Conclusion

Though gossip is associated with positive consequences by enhancing communication between people, groups, and organizations, it has numerous negative effects. It has been established that the negative effects of gossip surpass its positive impacts. It creates barriers between people who work together, decreases productivity, and spreads negative feelings. The spread of lies, half-truth, and truth with bad intention hampers the normal functioning of an individual and an organization. Gossipers are generally jealous by nature and they find satisfaction in spreading rumors about the people that are more famous and successful than they are. Therefore, gossiping causes more harm than benefit. 

Recommendations

It is imperative to note that gossip is not believed by most of people due to the human nature. On the other hand, the social support people provide to gossiping within the group or network where it is shared contributes to its existence. There are various ways of avoiding or minimizing gossip at schools, neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, and homes. The first step deals with being able to identify what amounts to gossip. All individuals are supposed to avoid taking part in gossip conversations by stating their discomfort about it clearly. People can also have a strong position that should be known to others expressing unwillingness to listen to gossips and lack of interest in it. Moreover, people should discourage our colleagues from discussing others negatively in their absence, but rather face them directly and solve any issues with them. Thus, it is possible to eliminate or minimize the disadvantages of gossip by following the aforementioned recommendations.

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