Gossip is simply stories about people who stretch or violate group standards. It always plays a powerful role in policing and punishing unacceptable behavior. Sometimes people follow the rules just because the thought of being shamed publicly is too much to bear. We risk being marginalized – and that is costly.

High status people can be the subject of gossip particularly when they break social protocol. Being rude, offensive, indiscreet or indiscriminate can shake the social network in which they all operate.

In the middle class, you may find gossip about neighbors whose choices don’t adequately align with the ensconced middle class.

Working class gossip may focus on girls who get pregnant or boys who get “in trouble.” Communities know these mistakes bring a high cost to the individuals so the shaming starts early in order to prevent the kids who are fast-approaching those vital teen years. 

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