Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Anatomy of a gossip

Gossip - a: rumor or report of an intimate nature b: a chatty talk c: the subject matter of gossip..

Gossip is the Devil's radio. -- George Harrison


Most of those who say they don't like to gossip are lying. They probably fear to be a subject of gossip themselves. I would like to ascribe goss as the unit of gossip. Now how to define one goss? Well, say, you are watching a gossip show on TV, or reading a magazine, a goss would be defined as the number of people you can get engrossed in a conversation about the topic.  Pretty subjective and crude definition, but that's the best I could come up with.  We will talk more about it towards the end of this post.


There have been Hollywood movies about gossip.  It lies at the very core of the social human being.  It's a study area in psychology.  Studies have found that Gossip isn't just loose talk.  There are virtues and immoralities associated with it.  There's a social stigma and there are social groups tied to it.  In essence, love it or hate it, gossip is here to stay, as it has since the dawn of the Gossip GeneTM. 

Anatomically, gossip consists of a subject or topic and the people preying on it.  Gossiping supposedly releases dopamine in brain, causing reduction in stress and bolstering a feeling of belonging.  In other words, a group of people engrossed in a gossip are likely to be happy and feeling friendly towards each other.  (Can we get India and Pakistan to gossip?!!)  But it's darker side is grotesque.  There's no mercy shown upon the subject, living or dead.  Workplace gossips are perhaps only second worst to household gossip.  Paparazzi build their careers around this native human emotion.

Every workplace has one typical Dilbert's Boss.  His or her subordinates dislike him (Euphemism intended).  In a case, there's one, who's strong on words but lame on actions.  He's not respected, but damn does he give.  I like such people, they care like the passing wind.  So naturally everyone gossips about him/her, as they can't confront him/her.  He/She takes the credit for the work of his/her subordinates, and what do They do?!  Go to the secret underground and gossip!  It releases the frustration.  It's a kind of a punching bag to vent that fury.  There's unity in the group bitching about the boss.  There's a feeling of mutual brotherhood.  I wonder if this is one of the driving forces of Lamarckian Evolution.  If it is, the social fabric and even our existence depends on this factor.  Yes, I am suggesting that gossip is probably as important as social bonding in an evolutionary sense.

Talking about celebrity and political gossip; People spend countless evenings at tea stalls, barber shops etc. discussing the Indian polity.  It's virtually a parliament there.  "We need dictatorship in India" is the most frequent political comment I have heard in such gatherings.  It's funny, lively and sometimes enlightening.  We Indians love movies but hate the guts of actors because they are filthy rich.  Same with cricketers, with the exception of the God, Sachin Tendulkar; He can do no wrong!  

In retrospect of this post, I would assign household gossip around 8 goss, workplace gossip around 4 goss (owing to its risky nature) and political and celebrity gossip greater than 15 goss.  Yes, it's the most satisfying and openly gossiped subject.