Girls have gossiped for generations, however today's Generation Z girls are taking this favorite past time to another level. As I travel and speak to young girls, I see a quick raising of hands in the air, unanimously agreeing that mean stinks and negative words really are hurtful. So, the million dollar question is Why do girls continue to participate in spreading gossip?
I believe there are several reasons.
CURIOSITY tempts us all. When a girl starts a sentence with Did you hear? they can't help but become all ears secretly hoping this piece of information is far more juicy than the last. I like to describe it as breaking news on CNN, only the reporter is most likely twelve or thirteen and only has one minute to deliver the news between classes. She hopes that her carrier pigeons keep delivering and the news goes viral by lunchtime so they can talk about it even more. When a girl can deliver news that other girls have not been privy to this gives her a sense of superiority and a feel of what it's like to be a leader of the pact. This tidbit of gossip doesn't necessarily have to be 100% true, it just has to be believable enough to spread. The problem with breaking news is that it breaks and then it usually fizzles out. Girls consider this method of gossip "safe." Rarely are they called out if it's not true and if they are it's incredibly easy to place blame elsewhere by saying they heard it from another source but conveniently can't remember who. Some girls feel a little extra attention never hurts, even if it's spreading negativity.
JEALOUSY/ENVY gives girls an adrenaline of something similar to kryptonite. Girls are judging each other by popularity, money, clothes, beauty, and they copycat and compare each other via reality tv shows, magazines, and movie stars. When a girl feels she can't compete and there is no hope for her to ever be accepted she might fight back using her kryptonite "powers" in a negative way. The flip side to this is the girl who does feel she can compete and will do whatever it takes to bring her enemy down. This gut reaction never ends well but somehow girls continue to use their "powers" in a negative way. This is a great view of how competitive girls feel they need to be with each other.
BOREDOM strikes when girls hit any sort of downtime. Advanced technology gives girls an instant dose of the latest gossip at the touch of a finger. There's no rest for the weary or bored when it comes to keeping up with the popular girls or the Kardashians....there's an app for it all.
An obvious solution to ending the drama and gossip might be to continue empowering girls to be kind to one another. I show girls how easy it is to be inclusive to their peers while reminding them the importance of using their power to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. They know the burden is on their shoulders but what tools do they possess to prevent the gossip from starting or traveling at a high rate of speed?
One answer might be right under our nose...learning to talk with each other. Girls lack the tools needed to have a conversation with a friend. Many girls feel talking about themselves in a positive way is equivalent to bragging, therefore it is much easier to talk about someone else. Confidence is a crucial piece to solving this puzzle. When girls are confident they worry less about being judged and are able to converse in a healthy manner. A conversation with a subject matter of likes, dislikes, hobbies or even making plans for the weekend have become extinct. Girls communicate their feelings via photos, memes, status's and gifs. Many girls who claim they are BFF's don't really know much about each other's thoughts, interests or values. Instead they label a peer as BFF with information as little as their grade, school, boy they are currently dating, classes or group they hang out in.
If we are not careful we will lose the ability to communicate with our peers in a human sense. Our language is slowly being replaced with abbreviations, "likes", and text. The power of a face to face conversation, learning what drives us, and the ability to visualize body language empowers us to be tolerant, inclusive and empower each other.