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The Rumour Mill

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Did you hear about the couple that got caught getting frisky in the Reading Room at 2am? Or about the guy who scratched his RF’s car on purpose? Or about all the other fake rumours spreading through the grapevines of 10 Heng Mui Keng Terrace?

Let’s be honest here - we’ve all gossiped about someone else before. As the saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and true enough, how many late night conversations were spent discussing the (de)merits of a certain blockmate’s personality? How many character assassinations were conducted over the course of bonding with your fellow KResidents?

Why Do People Gossip?

Image credits: Mark Anderson

So, okay - gossip exists. But why? Why do people do it? It is undeniable that there is a deep-seated desire in all of us to talk about other people. After all, we discuss what is important in our lives; and as a KResident, nothing is more important than the people we spend our waking (and sleeping) hours with. And that’s fine - anthropologists believe that discussing social situations allows us to bond, learn about others without actually meeting them and establishes unsaid boundaries of behavior.

But there are more sinister reasons that gossip exists: firstly, it creates a sense of superiority by discussing others’ shortcomings. Combined with a substantial amount of schadenfreude, this is a potent motivator. It also creates a sense of self-importance for the gossiper, since s/he is privy to information that the listeners are not. If the gossip is “juicy”, it steers the center of attention to the gossiper, creating a feeling of power.

In other words, the sense of satisfaction when you see the shocked look on your friend’s face after telling them an especially scandalous piece of news.

And finally, gossip can act as a form of revenge. I’m sure that that doesn’t need to be explained nor elaborated upon.

What Are The Effects Of Gossip?

Image credits: Mark Anderson

Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that gossip is damaging to some degree. The fact that this makes all of us hypocrites notwithstanding,

I think that it is about time we thought about the effects of the information that we propagate about others.

Malicious gossip damages reputations and relationships. There is a reason that sociologists term gossip a “social weapon”. We could have been intending to give someone the benefit of the doubt, but after hearing rumours about them, jump to the conclusion that they were doing wrong. If we were to then spread more rumours about them, it would turn into a vicious cycle of undeserved slander. I, myself, have been a guilty of this. Numerous times that I have heard damaging rumours about someone I’ve never met and treated them worse than they deserve upon meeting them. Think about it - I’m sure you’ve done the same.

Also, gossiping reflects badly on your own character.

What goes around comes around.

No one is perfect, and gossiping is akin to throwing stones while living in a glass house. Additionally, once people realise that you treat secrets and information as commodities to trade for attention, the people who confide in you will be few and far between.

But what if you really think a certain person’s behaviour is legitimately immoral or unwarranted?

If you feel the need to vent, sure, tell your closest friends about it. But draw the line at gross exaggeration, or broadcasting it to everyone and their grandmother.

Take the time and effort to give the person in question some constructive criticism, and they should thank you for pointing out their weak points they can improve on. It’s not easy being the guy putting his/her neck on the chopping block to say “Hey, I thought you shouldn’t have done this” but if the recipient is mature enough, they will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” - Henry Thomas Buckle

At the end of the day, we don’t expect gossiping to end 100%. However, all I ask is that the next time you feel like saying something undeservedly malicious about a person, ask yourself if you are doing it for the reasons discussed above, and consider if the ill-effects might occur. If so, simply don’t propagate the negativity. And if someone is spreading gossip, you may want to question them on the validity of it, or just take it with a pinch of salt.

“A rumor is a social cancer: it is difficult to contain and it rots the brains of the masses. However, the real danger is that so many people find rumors enjoyable. That part causes the infection. And in such cases when a rumor is only partially made of truth, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the information may have gone wrong. It is passed on and on until some brave soul questions its validity; that brave soul refuses to bite the apple and let the apple eat him. Forced to start from scratch for the sake of purity and truth, that brave soul, figuratively speaking, fully amputates the information in order to protect his personal judgment. In other words, his ignorance is to be valued more than the lie believed to be true.”

― Criss Jami, Killosophy

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