My usual get together with my ex-classmates took place over the weekend and one thing that struck me as interesting was that although we call it a catching up session, these gatherings often end up as gossip sessions, where everyone contributes a little to the conversation pot. Why do people, myself included, enjoy gossiping and listening to the gossips, about other people in their lives, I wonder.

          Gossiping is an age-old activity people indulge in, ranging from gossip in the small community in the olden days where people simply talk about those in their same village to the present day where people gain access to gossips online about the lives of the famous and rich. The spread of information on the internet and other media sources can be said as a case of supply and demand. Curiosity is the nature of human mind and the need to obtain as much information about the world is a natural instinct. We need to hoard information in order to increase our knowledge for survival. In addition, we need to know things so that we have topics to discuss with our peers, which in turn brings ourselves into the circle, aiding in our survival within the social group.

          With applications such as facebook, friendster, and the various blogging websites, the ease of finding gossip fodder is brought to greater heights. Very often I will hear my friends telling me intimate information about X and Y becoming a couple, A and B having broken up due to a third party, when these people are those we have almost never spoken to in our lives. Some of us even know tiny details of the lives of our favourite, or most hated, celebrities, and relish the spreading of all the ‘knowledge’ that we manage to acquire. When asked where those information came from, the answers would almost always be the internet. Why do we even care about these information about those whom we seldom, or almost never thought of?

          Perhaps it is our need to know whether the other people we know, especially those whom we dislike, are now better off or worse off than us. Knowing bad gossips about those people will make us feel better while good gossips (if they ever do occasionally occur) are up to us to rationalise about. We are free to rationalise that gossips are seldom true when they aren’t to our advantage while on the other hand tell ourselves that all gossips have a tinge of truth in them if they are. It all boils down to the need to survive. In the present day, survival is no longer limited to finding enough food and protecting ourselves from predators. It also includes being able to increase our self-worth and self-esteem. Feeling good about ourselves is highly important in deciding whether we can appease our greatest enemy, that is, ourselves.

          However, we have to always take note that although gossips are great conversation starters, the power of gossip is unimaginable. Think of the butterfly effect where a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado at a certain location. Gossips may have started as something harmless and really tiny, but eventually, they may alter another person’s life. It may be a good thing to think twice before spreading our next gossip on to our friends and acquaintances.