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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SBU chapter.

Gossip is often regarded as a social sin. The idea of talking about people is demoted as uninteresting and cruel. I used to heavily subscribe to the idea that talking about other people is trashy and immature because, to a certain extent, it is. There are certainly issues with relationships based solely on gossip, like friends who can only discuss other people. However, when done responsibly, a daily dose of gossip can be good for individuals and communities. 

There is a difference between gossip and blindly consuming from the rumor mill. I am not advocating to launch ruthless and baseless smear campaigns against the everyman. However, if a particular everyman has proven to be an untrustworthy and generally terrible person, why should we be banned from discussing their actions? 

Per dramatized stereotypes of young teen girls, my friends and I engaged in our fair share of gossip as ratty middle school students. So much so that our guild of mothers had developed a new catchphrase: “Don’t bash others!” “Bash,” having no ascertainable meaning in this context, began to serve as a trigger word for us, and we quickly turned it around on our moms to shame them for their incorrect usage of the word. We were mean. They were probably right in telling us not to “bash” others. 

At the time, our classic, newly teenaged argument that “we were simply “talking about what really happened: What people said and did” had very little credibility due to our age and lack of critical thinking skills. Now, however, I stand by our logic. Accurate gossip has a time, place, and purpose. Everyone deserves grace, but they also should be held socially accountable for their actions.

Gossip keeps us safe! I’m going to go out on a limb and say that gossip has probably single-handedly reduced the impact of public health crises. While it’s a horrible thing to circulate about someone if it’s false, it’s plausible that hundreds if not thousands of individuals have avoided contracting an STD from a simple “they’re dirty.” On a less serious note, sharing negative interactions you’ve had with others may prevent them from experiencing the same plight. It’s through the stories of others that we learn who has questionable morals and who we should stay away from.

It’s a tricky issue, to judge someone based on what others tell you. Luckily, we have a very important tool to help us differentiate truth from fibs: common sense. We must use our judgment when receiving gossip. If your best friend is telling you something that she was told by a person who experienced the event firsthand, you should be able to trust this piece of information. Unless, of course, one of these two people was lying. On the other hand, if someone you’ve talked to twice tells you a story that she heard from her friends who heard from her boyfriend, it’s best to remain skeptical.

The problem with gossip is not the act of gossiping, but the potential to spread misinformation. There are undoubtedly cases in which people have been savaged by false stories spread about them. It’s a horrible and cruel thing to do. These are the instances that give gossip a bad name, and rightfully so. Therefore, it’s up to the individual to practice gossiping responsibly.

What makes gossip irresponsible? When we spread or naively consume information about others to whom we have very little connection. Similarly, sharing information that was either revealed to you as a secret or implied to be naturally sensitive. Gossip can easily morph into what my mother would call “bashing,” where one directly attacks someone’s character or unjustly discusses something which this person has no control over, and while it may be unavoidable to include your thoughts on the situation it’s important to be cautious with your reaction. Once we step into “bashing” territory, the conversation becomes problematic.

But can we be honest with ourselves for a second? Gossip is fun! It’s a good way to bond with your friends and there are very few activities as invigorating as sharing a new, relevant story with your friends. I derive a concerning amount of pleasure from the dramatic work up to the jaw-dropping, shoulder-shaking detail— “And he has a girlfriend!” Pause for a gasp. Silently nod. “Can you believe that?” Most of the time, the answer is no.

If we write gossip off as a nasty social behavior, we miss the potential benefits that gossip may have. Gossip guides us away or to people based on their actions, or at least the actions that we have heard of. Where there is the danger of spreading rumors, we have the capacity to choose to believe this accusation or directly confront the person spreading it. This is where I like to meet a piece of unverified information with “Maybe they were going through something!” and stash the story away into a file of people to be weary of.

So, keep on gossiping! But remember to gossip responsibly.

Meghan Lex is a freshman at St. Bonaventure University from New Jersey. She is a new member at Her Campus SBU, but plans to write pieces surrounding mental health, entertainment, and campus life! She currently studies communications. Technically, she's a "Undeclared Communications" major at the moment because it gives her the opportunity to explore all of the different aspects of the field! As a freshman, she is extremely excited to try new things, and sign up for different clubs and experiences on campus. Evidently, she is a part of the women's cross country and track team, SBU@SPCA, Freshman Leadership Program, and the Student Athletes Wellness Club.