I had a strong opinion on this is why I picked this podcast. I did have a broad idea about the social utility of gossip and how it was the only truly valuable insight we have to offer each other. But that always felt more like a rationalisation than a logical argument inducing guilt every time I would make notes to later recount something to my best friend.
This podcast I was glad gave me the ammunition to ward off any internal criticism and bomb the left of my conscience.
- A good definition of gossip is talking about people while they are not present. It sounds like a pejorative but it shouldn't that's the whole point of the podcast.
- Gossip is used to build and destroy reputations. Human beings care greatly about reputation because it determines your acceptability, social ostracization has been a powerful tool of punishment in history, haven't you watched the Lion King? It has an evolutionary purpose to avoid making you suffer a bad experience from someone who also behaves badly with other people. If they have a reputation about it and are gossiped about, people can save others.
- Of course, the bad reputation gossip has come from several reasons including that it can sometimes be motivated by bad reasons to bring down others and it is difficult to manage false gossips. If someone says you are an evil person to another person because you asked them to finish the work on time, you cannot go back and contain all the fire, clarifying to everyone your sequence of events.
- It has really important function in-group cohesion which requires a large number of people to trust each other, they need to be able to validate their opinions about other people and weed out the bad actors.
- All genders and classes gossip in equal amounts. Men find smart ways to mask their gossip by calling it socially important information to make a better decision or a version of that. The rich pretend like only the poor gossip when they relish Jane Austen novels. A majority of human conversation is gossip. Ironically, to declare if someone is gossiper, you have to gossip about them.
- Gossip is also used as a signalling tool because direct confrontation is hard and sometimes impractical. It can also be used to mobilise people when other options are not quite viable. For instance, if you think people not wearing masks in a pandemic are being mean in jeopardising the health of everyone around them and you cannot straight walk up to them and tell them that, then talking about those other people doing it might signal to your friends what you care about and what you feel. It might have been difficult to strike that conversation otherwise and might reduce the total number of Karens in the world.