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Men gossip too

From abstract of research article:

Gossip is the human equivalent of ‘social grooming’ among primates, which has been shown to stimulate production of endorphins, relieving stress and boosting the immune system. Two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip, because this ‘vocal grooming’ is essential to our social, psychological and physical well-being. Mobiles facilitate gossip. Mobiles have increased and enhanced this vital therapeutic activity, by allowing us to gossip ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ and to text as well as talk. Mobile gossip is an effective and important new stress-buster.

The space-age technology of mobile phones has allowed us to return to the more natural and humane communication patterns of pre-industrial society, when we lived in small, stable communities, and enjoyed frequent ‘grooming talk’ with a tightly integrated social network. In the fast-paced modern world, we had become severely restricted in both the quantity and quality of communication with our social network. Mobile gossip restores our sense of connection and community, and provides an antidote to the pressures and alienation of modern life. Mobiles are a ‘social lifeline’ in a fragmented and isolating world.

Research findings:

Men gossip as much as women. The study found that men gossip at least as much as women, especially on their mobiles. Thirty-three percent of men indulge in mobile gossip every day or almost every day, compared with twenty-six percent of women. Men gossip for just as long and about the same subjects as women, but tend to talk more about themselves. The study did find a sex difference in ‘gossip partners’, with men more likely to gossip with work colleagues, partners and female friends, while women gossip more with same-sex friends and family. Male and female gossip also sounds different, as women use more animated tones, more detail and more feedback.

Mobile as ‘symbolic bodyguard’. Women use their mobile phones as ‘symbolic bodyguards’ when feeling vulnerable in public places – in the way that they used to use a newspaper of magazine as a ‘barrier signal’.

The joy of text. Texting is particularly important in maintaining contact with a wide social network – allows us to maintain social bonds even when we do not have the time, energy, inclination or budget for calls or visits. Texting re-creates the brief, frequent, spontaneous ‘connections’ with members of our social network that characterised the small communities of pre-industrial times.

Teenage social skills. Texting helps teenagers (and some adult males) to overcome awkwardness and inhibitions and to develop social and communication skills – they communicate with more people, and more frequently, than they did before mobiles.

Text as ‘trailer’. Mobile gossip is enhanced by the use of the text message as a ‘trailer’, alerting friends to the fact that one is in possession of an interesting item of gossip, but saving the details for a phone call or meeting.

Entertainment. Women are more skilled than men at making gossip entertaining – three factors are involved: highly animated tone, plenty of detail and enthusiastic ‘feedback’.

Risk-therapy. Enjoyment of gossip is also about the thrill of risk-taking, doing something a bit naughty, talking about people’s ‘private’ lives – this is particularly important for the reserved and inhibited English, but all humans have inbuilt need for risk-taking.

Benefits of negative gossip. Only about five per cent of gossip-time is devoted to criticism and negative evaluation of others – but this ‘negative gossip’ has clear social benefits in terms of rule-learning and social bonding.

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