“Pssst, I have something juicy to tell you, but you have to swear you won’t tell anyone else.”
You know that conversation. We’ve all been on the sending and receiving end more than once. You were told a secret and promised the secret-teller that you wouldn’t say a word.
But you did, didn’t you?
Soon the secret manifests itself into a relationship-breaking, self-destructive problem that you can’t make go away. No matter how you are involved, the situation sucks. That ugly, little thing called gossip is so much more than eighth-grade girls at recess whispering nonsense into each other’s ears.
As part of my morning ritual (you know . brushing teeth, eating breakfast . tying my shoes), I spend a few minutes on the computer. This particular morning, I logged on to PerezHilton.com. The self-proclaimed queen of gossip’s pink site loaded onto my screen and a huge picture of Britney Spears greeted me (not so appealing at seven in the morning). Perez was reporting that Brit had been drugged by her ex-manager (gossip). Moving on with my morning routine, I checked my e-mail and read a juicy item in my inbox from a friend-gossip. Right before I walked out the door, I perused Reuters.com for the day’s headlines. I fell upon an article regarding relations between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Apparently, Obama’s frustration with Clinton was mounting due to her failure to produce tax information and her push for more debates (gossip). Right before I clicked out of the site, I spotted the interesting headline, “Haven’t you heard. Hospitals to ban gossiping,” and found the inspiration for today’s column.
According to the article, the Serbian Health Ministry is banning, among other things, hospital employees from participating in gossip. Contending that the activity leads to a negative work environment and reduced care of patients, administration will punish staffers that refuse to commit to a gossip-free workplace.
The Health Ministry isn’t alone in their commitment to ending the potentially harmful spread of rumors. Many businesses in the United States have created “gossip-free zones” to ensure positive work relations. Obviously, at least within the U.S., no one can completely banish someone from free speech, but I understand their motivation. At the least, gossip is a distraction, but soon it can become insulting, especially if you are the subject of curiosity. In its most malicious and elevated form, gossip can be harmful, even career-ending for some.
Still, I have trouble believing that a work regulation will stop a natural activity. After all, isn’t the main tenet of gossiping its secretiveness? Regardless of rules, employees will continue to talk, maybe just a little bit quieter.
After reading the article, I did a little research to see how much gossip affects our lives. According to the Social Issues Research Center, gossip contributes to 67 percent of women’s conversation time (understandable) and an astounding 55 percent of men’s conversations. And here I thought it was a girl thing.
The obsession with rumors doesn’t stop at intra-office communications. Unfortunately, much of the news media contribute to the livelihood of gossip. Many respected news organizations have sections of their formats devoted to gabbing with the knowledge that the juiciest information attracts the most viewers. Additionally, with the advent of the Internet, gossip forums such as PerezHilton.com are garnering the attention of more and more of the public.
Celebrities, sports, politics: they all have their gossiping arenas online, and now niche populations are establishing their own. Browsing the Web the other day, I found an interesting site called JuicyCampus.com. With the tagline “Always Anonymous.Always Juicy.” the site acts as a medium for the university students to post the juiciest details about their campus and fellow classmates. Unfortunately for us, Cal Poly isn’t listed as a participating university.
Let’s be honest, gossiping isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it’s probably growing. A ban on rumors is just fuel for fire, motivating participants to gab and gossip even more. Rather than censor it, hospitals in Serbia, and the rest of us, just must learn to live with it, keeping our PerezHilton.com page views to one per day. Ok, maybe two.
Taylor Moore is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily columnist.