What is the Purpose of Gossip?

Someone found this blog recently through this question. Let’s talk about it.

Gossip serves a couple of different purposes:

It provides information about the target.  If what everyone is saying is true “gossip” may provide valuable knowledge about the character of the individual being discussed. I pay closer attention when multiple people tell the same story about someone especially if their tales share eerie similarities, the topic is an illegal or unethical act and not everyone involved is part of the same social circle.

Even this isn’t foolproof, though.

For privacy reasons I’m keeping this story as vague as possible in case anyone more closely connected to it ever reads this post. Many years ago an acquaintance of mine accused someone we both knew of raping her. She reported it to the police but the case was never brought to trial.

Unfortunately the court of public opinion quickly became interested in aspects of her personal life that had nothing to do with whether she was telling the truth. One of my biggest regrets from that time  is that I never turned those asinine questions about sexual history and drinking habits back around on everyone who doubted her.

I’ll never know for sure what did or did not happen that night but I’ve always wondered why so many people jumped to the conclusion that she was a liar given everything we know about sexual assault.

It tells you the truth about the gossiper. Does he or she regularly spread rumours? Have you known him or her to be honest in the past? Would he or she keep talking if the target walked in on the conversation? How would he or she react if their stories were confirmed to be false? I’ve ended more than one friendship based on the answers to these questions.


This is not to say that I condone spreading rumours about other people. Idle talk does far more harm than good.

I do think it’s important to listen to gossip with one ear, though. If nothing else it will give you an indication of who can and cannot be trusted.

What do you think?


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