Saturday, May 29, 2010

Is Gossip the Twitter of Ancient Times ?

The other day I saw something unusual during my morning drive. When I got home my instinct was to tell my wife about it – and I’d probably end up telling a few friends too. Some of these people, in turn, would spread the news further.

And it occurred to me that this instinct of sharing anything out of the ordinary with others does have its uses as it is a pretty efficient means of spreading the word. Of course it has its limitations since the facts get distorted as they pass along, but it still does get the word out.

Where does this instinct come from ? Could it be an evolved behavior from times before there was mass, instant communication ? When there were no news channels and no radios - and certainly no twitter – there must have been an actual necessity to pass around information via human contact – and so gossip became reinforced as a basic human instinct.

In this age, gossip is becoming more or less redundant. With instant news updates and millions of people updating their statuses about every imaginable event around the clock, it is hard not to stay informed about what is going on. This being the case, gossip should start receding as a social phenomena. Already I think it is going away. The ‘kick’ of gossip is telling a hot piece of news to people who have not heard it yet. But in this day of 24/7 news and updates, how many times have you tried telling someone what you considered an absolutely juicy bit of news, only to be answered, “yes, I know. I saw it in my news feed”. Distinctly unsatisfying ! and after it happens a few times, the urge to share starts to dwindle!

Who knows, perhaps in the next century the human habit of gossip will actually go away.

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