Usually when you hear the phrase ‘good gossip,’ you gear yourself up for truly scandalous information. And let’s face it, as humans, we all listen a bit more closely when that happens. No one wants to be the last to find out breaking news. (If that statement were false, I wouldn’t have to run spyware every other day from my maniacal refreshes of TMZ and Perez Hilton’s websites.)
When friends of mine use the phrase, I usually respond with, “oooh! oooh! Tell me! Tell me everything!” And I scoot to the edge of my chair, more alert than I’ve been in months, and with the focused attention my preacher wishes he saw in my eyes every Sunday.
I’m admitting it here. My name is Kara, and I listen to gossip too much.
But, is it ever okay to gossip? Is it ever okay to share gossip? You may roll your eyes at my response considering my recent and moderately public admission that I enjoy hearing gossip, but I will argue that there are times when it is okay.
Example: I have a friend who experienced an incredibly messy divorce. When I asked mutual friends if they’d heard anything, it was not because I hoped to hear something juicy (I swear!). No, I asked because I genuinely cared (and still do) about her, her then-husband, and their children. When I asked, it was in the hopes that there was nothing scandalous to report.
When such situations occur, and the news is bad, it’s received with grief, worry, and an unclear idea of how to reach out and let that person know that you a.) know, and b.) want to help. If I share this kind of information, it’s for the same reason. Because the people who are in this person’s life, and who care about him or her, need to know what’s going on — how to help — what needs might exist.
Now, I will admit and acknowledge that there are people who might not have cared about my friend or her family, and who took the same information and reveled in it, rubbed their hands with glee and tried to think who to call first. It was the same information, but different recipients of the data. Here, the exact same gossip became malicious.
So, I’m thinking that healthy gossip is differentiated from malicious gossip by the intent of the gossiper. What motivates our gossip? When (if ever) is it justified in your eyes? When does information that should be shared evolve from news to something seedier?
It’s a question I don’t have an answer to. But if you figure it out, give me a shout. I’ll fix us both some coffee, and lean over the fence post to hear what you have to say.