Coping with ‘chismosavirus’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Seth Godin’s “All Marketers Are Liars” was a nifty little book that I appreciated reading at the end of 2021. This was the year I graduated from high school and went on to study marketing in college. Godin’s novel could not have come at a better time, as I was a novice student hungry for more information and insight.

The main idea of “All Marketers Are Liars” can be summarized in one quote: “Stories let us lie to ourselves, and those lies satisfy our desires.” This piqued my interest, not only as a marketer but also as a writer, and somehow, a gossiper, or what is now dubbed as a Marites.

Short for “Mare, ito ang latest,” the moniker rose to prominence in late 2021. Marites is the first person you turn to if you’d like to see some tea spilled. She’s all ears and in the loop with all the latest gossip. Depending on how you live your life, Marites can be a dear friend or a woeful foe.

National pastime

Marites jokes are still pretty new, but the culture that has allowed Mariteses to thrive is practically as old as time in the Philippines. There is the chismosa, another Spanish word for the nosy gossiper we simultaneously love, hate and are. For better and worse, rumor-mongering has been a national pastime, with gossip pervading family reunions, gatherings with friends and any social media channel Filipinos use.

Gossip of many kinds has the power to get people moving and talking. When it comes to local celebrity chismis, the masses read their tabloids. Others await scathing explainer Twitter threads (or, more obscurely, see if Fashion Pulis’ blind items were right).

The upper classes may seem like they couldn’t care less, but that’s likely because they’re invested in what Deuxmoi says about their favorite Western celebrities or what Dispatch has on their beloved Hallyu stars instead.

Whether you’re more interested in which Filipino love teams are dating or what happened in the aftermath of the infamous Oscars #Slapgate, you most likely aren’t immune to gossip. Great news: The rest of the world isn’t either! Page Six and TMZ keep millions on their toes, and the aforementioned Deuxmoi is also on a meteoric rise.

I admit that I’ve got a chronic case of “chismosavirus.” I lurk in silence through private accounts, cryptic messages and obscure forums to avoid being at the forefront of the rumor mills. As a result, I never fail to surprise myself and friends with how much I know and how quickly I get a hold of information, even as the news we hear is largely unsubstantiated. When I track down chismis, I don’t have malicious intentions in mind—I simply want to be in the know about many things, but most especially celebrity news and personalities.

Guilty pleasure

Gossiping has its fun parts, but it is ultimately a guilty pleasure. As we indulge in our “Gossip Girl”-esque fantasies and pass the latest news around like hot potatoes, we understand why we should avoid chismosavirus.

Tell the wrong person, and hush-hush rumors turn into full-blown scandals that can cause irreparable damage to those involved. Also, bonds built solely on gossip can turn sour fast. If you get on the nerves of your fellow chismosa friends, you better expect to see your dirty laundry aired out as a taste of your own medicine. Even if things don’t get this drastic, being known as a chismosa will likely make you seem less approachable.

Despite all this, the age-old adage is correct: Old habits die hard. Gossip has its very evident pitfalls, but we continue for various reasons. Perhaps we’re too nosy and curious for our own good, or so much of our social interaction is built on this controversial habit.

However, it is worthy to note that gossip isn’t always malicious. Psychology professor David Ludden says outside the expected scathing stories, gossip can also relay positive or neutral information. I know this much is true because I prefer hearing anecdotes about my favorite celebrities being nice off-cam and acquaintances I want to get to know better being likeable people.

We know that gossip is hardly ever reliable. Regardless, we believe what we want to believe. As best said by Godin himself, “great stories agree with our worldview.” More than believing what we want to believe, he argues that we trust whatever proves our assumptions right the most.

Often, the best kinds of gossip are the ones that you can reply to with “I knew it!” And when presented with information that contradicts what we already know, we’re quick to find ways to deny these rumors. We can attribute this desperation to a fact of human nature: nobody likes being wrong.

Gossiping also allows us to live more interesting lives, albeit vicariously. Let’s face it: Normal life is mundane, and the pandemic has made it easier to get bored.Bringing people together

Despite its seemingly divisive nature, gossiping can bring people together. The controversial habit has this unusual power to foster a sense of community. When we treat gossip as a means of information-sharing out of concern rather than malice (e.g. telling your friends to stay away from red flags, love- and career-wise), we become people worth trusting.

When the people we gossip with return the favor through more gossip, well, that’s where the sense of belonging kicks in. What do they say about birds of a feather?

Also, contrary to popular belief, gossiping isn’t exclusively a feminine habit! Studies have shown that women and men gossip at similar rates, and feminine gossip is more positive.

Godin says, “We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”

Living our truth (as in, having a worldview) cannot be confused with living the truth. What is ours often isn’t everyone’s. For better or worse, though, worldviews succeed by convincing us that our truth is the only truth that matters, and we’ve seen how this can rear its ugly head once taken too far.

Let’s make one thing clear: The mere act of gossiping, especially on a smaller scale, does not inherently lead to these ills. However, the guiding behavior and principles (insisting on our own truths, excessive speculation, borderline groupthink, among others) when left unchecked can and will get out of hand.

We cannot abolish the act of gossiping. Gossip exists and will continue to thrive as long as people are worth talking about. But we ought to repeatedly remind ourselves that gossip is far from the absolute truth, “trusted sources” be damned.

More importantly, as cliche as it is, what we say and think of others reflects on ourselves—judgment is a two-(or more)-way street. If we desire to keep gossiping (we almost always do), it’s only right to do so responsibly. After all, our gossip, and in turn, our worldviews, can bring people together. What good is there in using them to break us further apart? —CONTRIBUTED INQ

The author is an 18-year-old freshman taking up Communications Technology Management at Ateneo de Manila University.

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