I remember when I was in college, my friends and I were fascinated by The Twilight Saga. We were swooned by Bella Swan’s and Edward Cullen’s on-screen chemistry. So, when the reel lovers started dating in real life, we started following their relationship closely. We lapped up every bit of gossip about the couple enthusiastically.
Today, thanks to the internet and social media, finding juicy topics to gossip about, whether they involve a celebrity, a mutual friend or a family member, is easy. But did you know that gossiping is not a modern age phenomenon, and that it has been around for ages? In the Ted Talk, Sociology of Gossip, Television personality and infotainer Elaine Lui talks about gossip in the early dynastic period of Egypt. She mentions the Egyptian hieroglyphs, excavated in the servant quarters around the Queen Hatshepsut Temple, which unmistakably show a royal female engaged in physical contact with an ignoble. Probably, the servants were talking about the queen’s affair with one of her advisors. Only, instead of talking about it on social media, they recorded it as a pictogram.
Given the prevalence of gossip since ancient times, many researchers have studied the subject in-depth. They have striven for years to find out why we gossip. In the 1990s, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford, Robin Dunbar found that gossiping dates back to the earliest human settlements. He states that during the early ages, gossiping helped forge social bonds, delegate hunting-gathering responsibilities, communicate moralistic behaviour codes, share social information about one another, and even warn fellow primates about potential dangers. In his book Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, Dunbar even goes on to say that languages evolved because of our fundamental need to gossip.
What if, on the contrary, we were told gossiping can do just as much good?