Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit

gossip is human behavior

Gossip isn’t all bad.  A new book argues that you’re if you’re not talking about other people, you’re not a very good human.

Go Ahead, Gossip Away…

Joseph Epstein wants you to know that it’s not only okay to gossip, it’s an integral and important part of our human-ness. In Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit, Epstein breaks down the difference between rumor and storytelling, and laments how gossip, once almost an art form, has, in the technological age, descended into the cheap and tawdry.

In this article hosted on Slate.com, Isaac Chotiner puts Epstein’s book into context, delving into the psychological, evolutionary, and anthropological ramifications of scandalous rumors. Epstein explains, “a man or woman without any interest in gossip may be impressive in his or her restraint, but also wanting in curiosity, uninterested in the variousness of human nature, dead to the wildly abundant oddity of life, and thereby, in some central way, deficient.”

Gossip VS Rumors

Many may not see an evident difference between the two, but Chotiner differentiates it this way:

While gossip is an activity that almost everyone partakes in, it’s hard to define. The first step is distinguish gossip from rumors, with the latter being “less specific, more general, more diffuse, less personal in content and in the manner in which they are disseminated. Rumors can lead to gossip, and gossip can reinforce rumors. But gossip is particular, told to a carefully chosen audience, and is specifically information about other people.” Gossip can be false—Epstein uses the example of boys from his school days exaggerating or inventing sexual exploits—but the crucial part of his definition traces back to what Hardwick and Franklin understood: Gossip is not about politics or celebrity, but rather people, even if they happen to be politicians or celebrities.

What do you think? Should we humans reinstate the “art” of gossiping? And perhaps, most importantly, tell us  your juiciest rumor in the comments below. Remember, doing so makes you a better human, at least according to some sociologists.

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