We live in an age when gossip is more widespread today than it has ever been.
Social media and accessibility to any piece of information we want, or need, puts the world at the tips of our fingers.
This is a time when Facebook updates your relationship status faster than your local county courthouse, where your 1,000 “close and personal” friends can see your life’s every move on their news feed (if you choose to post) and where you can see firsthand all the pictures of that gorgeous party you were not invited to — and quite possibly discussed at.
I have noticed that when we read a story or hear a salacious rumor, most people don’t give a second thought as to how it affects those being spoken about.
We just pop it in our mouths, chew it up and swallow it whole —relishing every morsel down to the bitter end.
And if you ever get to thinking about how an outsider knows so much about you, my mother always says — “check your insiders.”
We certainly can’t stop gossip, and we definitely can’t control everything that is posted or talked about on social media.
But the real question is: When does gossiping turn from harmless banter into public shaming?
While gossip can be slanderous and not 100-percent accurate, the intention typically is not to humiliate the person, but is more related to social bonding and making conversation.
Public shaming, on the other hand, is the spreading of gossip that intends to humiliate someone as punishment or as a form of intimidation or revenge.
It’s more of a strategy to shine the light so brightly on a subject that he or she suffers embarrassment.
Even worse than committing the act of public shaming individually is calling upon others (family members and close friends) to hop aboard the “shame train.” This is when character assassination turns into a group effort.
So what differentiates the two?
Let’s say I pass on a rumor or a piece of gossip to one or two of my friends just for the sake of idle banter and coffee talk — that is “gossiping.”
When I pass on that same piece of gossip or story openly to a group of people with the purpose of disgracing someone — well, that’s what we call “public shaming.”
Somewhere out there, someone always has a bigger platform on which to speak; and how they use that stage speaks volumes about their character.
Whether you’re responsible for gossiping or publicly shaming someone, if it’s negative in nature, then you are guilty of reputation theft; and the Talmud teaches us that gossip is like a three-pronged tongue that kills three separate people: the person who says it, the person who listens to it and the person about whom it is said.
In the end, it’s better to just bite your tongue, reroute conversation and take the high road when it comes to malicious chatter, otherwise it always comes back to bite you down the road.
Until Next Time,