My mother was a gossip.
Growing up in a very small town with a gossip for a mother set many of my values. I quickly learned it is much easier to stay out of the gossip loop altogether than to be selectively involved. Partly because of this awareness, I rarely talk about acquaintances. Never–if I become aware of it.
One of the interesting observations I have recently made is that I was more aware of the need to stay out of the realm of the gossip machine when I was actively engaged professionally. That was certainly partially due to the fact that gossip is a larger influence professionally than it seems to be today. At least in my today these days.
Some other of the observations that I made while teaching at LTTC deserve a little more light now that fewer people are likely to care. Everyone wants to know what the math teacher at the college thinks. Nobody seems to care what I think. The difference may be more closely related to age, though, than “no longer the math teacher'”
Note, first of all, that people pretty much fall into exactly one of two camps: either you are a gossip or you are not. Contrary to popular opinion, it takes as much energy to stay out of the gossip loops altogether as to be central to them. On the other hand, gossip itself almost always falls into just one category: all gossip–certainly so at the small town level–is destructive.
Whether the gossiper means destructive intent, or thinks the morsel of gossip he/she spreads contains negative information or not are both irrelevant. Once it is on the gossip loop, the originator, or propagator, has no influence on the gossip’s outcome. There are always people who will gladly put a negative spin on anything they hear or share on the loop. The only positive position one can have is to shun gossip in all its forms,
Men are as apt to be gossips as women. Same goes for intelligent people, professionals, or any other criterion people commonly use to stratify society.
What drives a gossip, I think, is the push and the pull of being “in the loop.” Gossips like being the person people seek out when they want to hear what is “on the Loop.” To be that person, you clearly have to be willing to share.
A final comment awaits. I was prompted by an observation made by a friend whose mother was also a gossip. He commented that the gossip wants always to know what is going on. I think that gossips are the least likely to know what is really going on, for it is rarely something that gossip even includes.