Gossip

Screenshot from 2012-12-02 20:19:21

Picture classifying Gossip Targets

In this post I want to look into gossip mechanisms, effects and influence on our perception and behavior if looking from organized stalking target, populace and exploiter position.

Almost every targeted individual mentions pervasive gossip and rumors behind their back that have been overheard or assumed to be going on based on first time encounters with stranger and sensing undeserved negative attitude and energy towards them. So gossip and rumor has to be very influential for gang stalking process if we assume that organized stalking is not a spontaneous occurrence based on other factors. We also have to take into account the option of the nature of the rumors to take life of their own and evaluate the incident knowing that attack could be disciplined or natural occurrence based on preexisting natural curiosity and nosiness of people in others around them. Gossip has been around as long as humanity existed, so we have to take in account it’s natural role in shaping our behavior and culture. So this posts not so much personal view of the issue, but rather academic definitions and insights. I think it’s important to weigh in gossip as natural social mechanism of any community in order to distinguish so called “perps” and those who are just receptive for information, etc. Even negative behavior towards a target by third party could be not so much as aversive measure, but rather defensive/protective based on nature of rumor and it’s interpretation. So in the end it’s not the gossip itself that matters, but who concocted and spread the rumor. I’ll be using “Research on Gossip: Taxonomy, Methods, and Future Directions” (local copy) (2004) that reviews half century of gossip research from multiple disciplines. It is very interesting article and I would recommend it to read for any targeted individual.

Strong evidence that evaluations traveling through the network tend to stop short of their targets, concluded that a norm seems to exist “to keep people from learning too much about what others think of them”, in this issue, also acknowledge that gossip affords one the benefits of various veins of social comparison while avoiding the risks of embarrassment or confrontation. Thus, gossip, far from violating privacy, may be construed as a protective social norm.

Slade (1997) distinguished five types of informal conversation and reported that about one seventh (14%) of the time spent in workplace coffee-break conversation consisted of gossip. However, because she limited her definition to negative gossip, the percentage would presumably be higher with positive remarks included.

Gossip about others who are present is probably better labeled public disclosure or ridicule (Kuttler et al., 2002; which may or may not be made innocuous by other facets of the situation). For the most part, authors agree that day-to-day gossip refers to talk about absent third parties.

Although the surface of a gossipy conversation may appear casual, idle, or trivial (Rosnow, 2001), the meta-communicative value is of quite a different kind when we include the evaluative components, implied or explicit, that usually accompany such communications.

 Mettetal (1982) observed positive and negative gossip among adolescents, although exchanges among younger peers were likely to be more negative, suggesting that maturity may play a part in developing a more subtle and complex form

The situational aspect of gossip cannot be entirely separated from the content of the gossip, any more than the functions of gossip can be separated from the form; the inherent meaning of the content depends on these other factors.

She remarked upon gossip as socially beneficial in that it facilitates information flow, provides recreation, and strengthens control sanctions, thereby creating group solidarity. Yet, it also can be “an outlet for hostile aggression” (Stirling, 1956, p. 263). Stirling thus implied the four social functions of gossip encountered repeatedly in gossip literature in the years since her article: information, entertainment, friendship (or intimacy), and influence.

Gossip as entertainment can be readily inferred by observing conversationalists passing the time gossiping. Although the gossipee might certainly be sensitive about the information being passed, this does not obviate the fact that gossip can exist solely for the entertainment or recreational value of the gossipers. It is “the sheer fun which for most gossipers explains their involvement”

Establishing friendship at the dyadic or group level is closely related to boundary enforcement and gossip’s influence function, widely discussed by gossip writers. As a means of corralling (or expelling) the wayward and eccentric, gossip is acknowledged to be an efficient social mechanism. The aim of gossip could be either to reform or to stigmatize the sinner. Enquist and Leimar (1993) and Dunbar (2004), in this volume, maintain that gossip is a kind of informal policing device for controlling free riders and social cheats. In fact, these authors posit that, evolutionarily, this is the most important function of language in general and gossip in particular. It is not much of a deductive leap to realize that what one hears about others can just as easily be said to others about oneself; in this way, we can learn how to behave—what to do and what not to do—from listening to gossip.

Much of Gluckman’s (1963) research focused on the coercive aspect of gossip from the perspective of the group. Paine (1967) countered that it is “the individual who should be taken into account in forwarding and protecting individual interests” (p. 278). Building on the work of both Paine (1967, 1970) and Goffman (1959), Cox (1970) wrote that gossip occurs when a person “directly interferes in another’s impression-management, hence forcing the audience to redefine his victim’s role”

Conformity is essential for the survival of the group as a whole, which may account for the particularly vitriolic form of gossip observed in groups under pressure to survive and in open competition with one another

Gossip’s potential to restrict freedom motivates people not only to minimize their eccentricities but also to minimize gossip about themselves whenever possible. People might try to be present, for example, when they sense they may be being talked about, or they may try to ferret out the sources of gossip about themselves. Haviland observed that although people are intensely and often indiscreetly curious about their neighbors, they go to considerable lengths to hide details of their own daily lives.

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