The fairly standard definition of gossip is idle chatter or rumors about the personal or private affairs of others, ranging from important to trivial matters. The internet makes it possible to spread gossip widely in mere seconds. What used to take a long time to filter through to others can now be shared with a single click. But there are many who share or become party to such information online who have never thought twice about the fact that they could be gossiping.
The word gossip is used for both the (mis?)information shared and for the person sharing the tidbit. I read a good definition of a gossip — "A person who will never tell a lie if the truth will do more damage." I doubt that a gossip's intentions are always malicious, but much harm can and does come from the spreading of private information, even if it's true.
One of our quandaries today is the fact that many people are very forthcoming with their private information, posting it all over online. Is the sharing of information a person posts about himself or herself gossip? I even wonder at times as I listen to "the news" on TV or radio or read various print media if I actually need to know much of what's being reported. We don't live in the Information Age — we live in the WTMI (way too much information) Age! Do we simply know too much about others? And how much of what we know is factual?
There are websites, blogs, and social media groups where people delight in sharing information and misinformation about others, sometimes not being careful about the accuracy of what they're sharing and always giving a wider audience to something someone was unfortunate enough to say or post in the public or even private arena. Many disputes that used to be handled in private conference are now the fare of internet flame wars.
As I was thinking about this post, I found several good quotations about gossip:
"Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people." — attributed to both Socrates and Eleanor Roosevelt
"No one gossips about other people's secret virtues." — Bertrand Russell
"Rumor travels faster, but it don't stay put as long as truth." — Will Rogers
"For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases." Proverbs 16:20 (ESV)
"A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." Proverbs 16:28 (ESV)
"Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." 1 Timothy 5:13 (ESV)
The Bible says a lot about gossip and slander. In fact gossip and slander are listed along with murder in a list of grievous sins found in Romans 1:29-32. The objects of gossip would undoubtedly agree with that. Gossip, slander, whispering (whatever you call it) has the potential of ruining lives.
Just so this post isn't too heavy, I'll end with a good story about gossip.
Irene, the town gossip, and self appointed monitor of the community's morals, kept sticking her nose into other people's business. Several neighbors did not approve of her extra curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member of the community, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old blue pickup parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told George, and several others, that anyone seeing it there would know exactly what he was doing.
George, a man of few words, stared at her for a few moments and just turned and walked away. He didn't explain, defend or deny. He said nothing.
Later that evening, George quietly parked his blue pickup in front of Irene's house, walked home, and left it there ... all night!
I look forward to the comments on this post, particularly in regards to what we read and hear in social media and other media. I try to be overly careful about what I post on my blog or on Facebook (which isn't much at all). Confronting hi-tech gossips seems as fruitless as confronting Irene in the story above. What are your reactions to today's hi-tech gossip? Are there any solutions, other than unplugging completely?
Lead your life in such a way you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
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