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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Column: Small people

Andy is so fickle, Madeline is such a big slut and you’re so curious. Just who are Andy and Madeline? It doesn’t matter, but you probably want to know anyways. It seems that discussions like this drive our society – talk about other people, gossip. People love hearing about other people. Take a look at the landscape of television; it’s littered with reality shows. Hell, look at Facebook! ‘Nuff said.

We just love, love, love hearing and talking about other people. An article by NY Daily News highlighted a study that found 80 percent of our conversations are made up of gossip. Didn’t think you gossiped that much now did you?

What’s more interesting than just how much gossip gets thrown around is the idea that it can even do some good for us. Wait, what? Yup, you heard right. The same article made note of how gossiping can sow the seeds for friendships and relationships, as it could build trust with whomever you’re yapping off to. This shouldn’t really be news to you; you know it and you live it. You meet someone; you talk to them and establish a connection. And a good portion of what you talked about was surely other people – don’t deny it.

“People drive stories” is a well-known mantra that is preached to death in Stephen Magagnini’s journalism class, and how true it is. I do love a good story about people finding success and overcoming adversity, but what I and just about everyone also enjoy are the stories where people are met with grief or slandered. It’s morbid, but come on. Most people would rather hear about the guy who cheated on his girlfriend than about someone being promoted at the workplace. Using gossip to “drag someone under the bus” can still build trust, I presume. When someone confides juicy info to you, you probably feel empowered and in the loop.

Me? I love talking. It’s a nice feeling to know that you’re on the same page with someone. I will take gossip over silence any day of the week when there is not much else to talk about. It sure beats being kept in the dark.

I’m no stranger to gossip or the rumor mill, but I sometimes try to take a different route, especially if it’s going to slander someone into oblivion. For pure amusement, maybe I’ll hazard a few minutes and share my two cents on some people. But really, what good does it do anyone besides building a bit of trust for me and giving me a few giggles? Trust can be built elsewhere, and negative gossip can really make you look bad.

You just have to be careful with just how much you share or forever be labeled a “loud mouth.” And that’s a tough label to shake. Who is going to want to trust you now? That’s what you get for treading too far and too deep. Gossip can be a double-edged sword; it can build relationships or destroy them.

Good or bad, gossip is an integral part of socializing, it’s everywhere and it will almost always crop up in our daily conversations. With that said, here is some food for thought: “Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things and small people talk about other people.” You may want to rethink your conversations, especially if they come at the expense of someone else’s well-being and reputation – perhaps even yours. Exercise caution, because, as Cortana once said in Halo Legends, “there is a danger in secrets, both in seeking and in knowing.”

LARRY HINH says to play nice! Have something to say about him? Tell him at lthinh@ucdavis.edu.

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