From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2013 13:00:55 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 25, 2013, at 2:35 PM, Elizabeth Magill <pastorlizm [at] gmail.com> wrote:

> Gossip runs amuck.

One thing our community is horrible at is gossip. There was a wonderful article 
in the NYTimes a few years ago on the benefits of gossip. So many people think 
of gossip only as negative, as if the only thing people wanted to know about 
each other was muck.

The authors pointed out that gossip binds a community. It's the sharing of 
information and feelings and actions that can't be shared any other way. People 
would have to do everything together all the time and maintain intimate 
relationships with everyone. 

Some people I rarely see in the normal course of events. If my neighbor didn't 
keep me up to date, I wouldn't know anything about them. Then when a crisis 
arose I wouldn't have any context for responding. I would never know whether 
they liked birthday greetings or not. Or even whether they were planning to 
move until they announced it.

When something is wrong, many people don't like to talk about it directly. 
Gossip serves the purpose of informing everyone without them having to. We've 
developed a pattern of designating a crisis communicator who sends out updates 
and lets everyone know the druthers of the affected. This works well in a 
crisis, but not for things that are less crucial. 

Yes, mouth to mouth can be like a game of telephone where the facts become 
distorted but so can lack of communication. In silence, everyone just makes 
there own assumptions. In a community where people do know each other much of 
that is held in check because one knows whether a story is likely to be true or 
not. Some people do communicate strange stories but everyone usually knows who 
they are and pays no attention.

With 85 people in the community, no one could keep up with each person. Without 
gossip some people just don't keep up. That doesn't build community.

Sharon Villines

Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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