Hate or love it, gossip helps cement bonds

Thursday February 11 2021
Frinds pic
By Business Daily Africa

Is gossip hereditary? I know of a family of gossips and always wondered how they came to be”


For some reason, your question brought what I will call for now, a knowing smile, in part because I can imagine you and a group of your friends ‘gossiping’ about this or the other person who you consider to be a gossip and deciding if she and her sisters might have been talking about you as well.

The other reason for my smile is that unknown to you perhaps, the subject of gossip is not for gossipers as it has occupied the minds of many great men over the centuries. In his book Origins Reconsidered, Richard Leaky reevaluates his thinking about the origins of man.

The so called Turkana boy, lived about 1.5 million year ago, and one of the many questions that continue to preoccupy scientists is whether or not Homo erectus as he was, had language as we know it today. From Lake Turkana, the boys’ people are known to have crossed sea to Europe and Asia where some, like him have been found. Language and perhaps gossip would have been necessary to sail across the oceans, some have argued.

Some other experts have argued that language, and, therefore, gossip is the preserve of Homo sapiens (modern man) which sadly would slash the life of gossip to a mere 200,000 thousand years. As you can already see, the age of language is not an easy matter to settle.


The book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible tells us a great deal about King Solomon; whose wisdom we are told came straight from God.

He tells us that ‘a gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret’. So, you now want to know, if this ‘thing’ that wise Solomon refers to runs in families and what harm, if any does gossip do, and also of what benefit might gossip have in society. Additionally, is it true that women gossip more than men?.....So many questions one could gossip about. First, the definition.

Gossip can be defined as ‘casual and unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true’. Other definitions also exist. One of the many things about gossip is that if not passed on, it, like knowledge soon dies. So the gossiper tells the listener that the matter in discussion is ‘top secret’ and must not be passed on. Both the gossiper and his listener know that this must not be the case and that the story is only of value if it is quickly passed on as more gossip!

Is the subject of gossip and gossiping important? Yes, and indeed a group from King’s College in London looked at the subject scientifically and have some interesting findings. Surprisingly, gossip, is by nature in most cases neither positive nor negative in content. It is mostly neutral contrary to what many people are led to believe.

Although women gossip more than men, men also gossip and just for the record, scientists found that the population gossiped on average 52 minutes per day!

If we spend so much time in gossip, what value if any does it add? Not surprisingly, gossip helps us form social bonds and enables us to belong to groups of like-minded people. It also relieves pent up emotions and relieves stress! Remember man is a social animal by definition.

In the process of gossiping we exchange opinions and validate or otherwise modify our relationships. In teenagers, however, gossip can be particularly harmful as it can lead to low self esteem, depression and in some cases, suicide of the victims.

Coming back to your question, does gossiping run in families, the simple answer is yes, in the sense that we are all products of the social and biological milieu that we grow up in and most of what we are is the result of this environment. That, however, is the simple answer and some will disagree with this rather simple explanation.

What is less contentious is the fact that some gossipers have low self esteem and seek acceptance in social groups by isolating others to gain acceptance in the social groups of their desire. So, if you are a failure in the view of the gossiper, the content of the gossip is different from that about successful people to where he wishes to belong. Not surprisingly gossip is rampant in churches, golf clubs, schools, parliament and everywhere that people meet......You will know them because they speak in low tones, heads near each other and stop talking when you get near them. As you walk away, they might emit a giggle or a laugh.