Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Why gossip?

I've been thinking about gossip lately, with Paris, Britney, Lindsay, Katie, whoever-ie incessantly blanketing flat-screens in every dentist's waiting room and grocery store. It seems to me that this celebrity gossip thing has gotten worse over the years. Of course the Internet and gossip sites have much to do with it. Or, to be honest, I'm thinking maybe Iraq plays a role as well. Here we are living our normal day-to-day lives while the courageous approach checkpoints thinking, "Is it my day to get limbs blown off?"

No matter one's position on the war, it's surreal.

Maybe people gravitate to the escapism of gossip because, unlike this war, it doesn't require much processing-power to make sense of it?

There's an old idea from The Long Tail that keeps dangling in my head. It's about the end of the watercooler era. To quote:

The usual test is the "watercooler effect", the buzz in the office around a shared cultural event, be it the finale of The Apprentice or the opening of the last Star Wars. The number of such events has been shrinking for years, driven mostly by the fragmentation of the television audience.
Anderson goes on to cite examples in various media where the "hits" of today wouldn't make the radar of the ratings years ago. With DVRs and DVDs it's almost impossible to share a television show with co-workers. Even if people are watching the same season of the same show, it's unlikely they're watching the same night.

All that said, here it goes: Just because we no longer share cultural events around TV, music, and movies; doesn't mean we don't naturally crave a sharing of cultural events. Anderson's "End of the Watercooler" has created a vacuum to be filled by - livable media, or media that has value only if experienced at a specific time.

Take the Superbowl, you could TiVo and watch it later but good luck avoiding the score. American Idol fits as well.

Gossip works in particular, I think, because it demands to be relayed in the moment. A person can bring up Britney's bald head tomorrow in work conversation, but that's old news. It's all Lindsay and Paris now.

Gossip also transcends the political polarization of our time. Political debates are difficult in the office, but it's so easy to gap. Paris going to jail? It's something we can all agree on.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

At first I was going to disagree.I never talk about celeb gossip at work, nor do I hear anyone else talking about that stuff really. However, today I go to cnn.com see that she was released on house arrest at her freaking mansion. Then I immediately tell my friend at work. Just now I go to yahoo and see she might be going back! http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070608/ap_en_ce/paris_hilton

I don't know what's worse... The fact that it's a top story on most news sites, or the fact I clicked and read the article.

I agree.