Assuming Only Makes an Ass Out of You

It’s time we stopped feeling entitled to other people’s personal information

Matt Shipley // Contributor
Sophie Young // Illustrator

These days, it seems as if gossip flies as ubiquitously as conversation itself. It’s getting harder and harder to get through the day without hearing whispers from another student or a coworker. “Is he gay?” “Did you hear he’s transitioning?” “There’s no way they’re not dating.” As small as each of these interactions are, they become an irritating—if not outright damaging—spiderweb for those unfortunate enough to be caught within it.

I’m about as drama-averse as one can be, but I recently moved in with a family that lives and breathes the stuff. Every day, they’ve got the TV blaring sleazy celebrity rumours and judgy reviews of America’s Got Talent performers. And then they talk about it all evening. I wonder what it’s like to be one of those people, smiling for the cameras whose photos will end up on a stinging article bashing their weight gain. Do they live off of the drama, just like my host family? Or do they look at people like them with derision, or pity? I wish I knew what all the gossip makes them feel about themselves.

Being completely open about who you are is a privilege. Would I come out as gay if my parents were devout religious conservatives? If my friends would whisper behind my back, debating who I was dating and whether or not I was just doing it for attention? Not a chance. I’ve seen worse things happen to my 2SLGBTQQIA+ friends, and none of it was their fault. In a society where being yourself is often looked down upon, when your way of life doesn’t fit the societal norm, existence becomes a chore. The more different we are, the more conversation encircles us, and the taller the tales become.

The thing about gossip is that it, by definition, is negative. It’s very rare for people to trade secrets that make a person look good. If someone’s story is intriguing, more often than not it’s because we’re looking at them and thinking, “well, at least they’re worse off than I am,” not understanding that we’re perpetrating the same behaviour that made them so.

In essence, looking at someone in a negative light is not the problem; it’s sharing that opinion with others. We don’t need to know that James didn’t pay for his date’s meal last night. We don’t need to debate whether or not he’s broke, if he was fired from his job, or if he’s just an asshole. One simple action, seen by the wrong people, can balloon into something huge, even when not a single person knows that James’s mother fell down the stairs and needed to be driven to the hospital.

The solution is easy enough. Just don’t do it. Focus on growing your own life, and being proud of yourself. If you need to look down on other people to be happy with who you are, you’re injuring yourself just as much as the people you deride. Stop using other people’s plight as an excuse to tread water in your own personal journey. If you’re unhappy that you’re a smoker, or that you can’t find a lover, or any number of other things, only self-action will solve your problems. Making fun of other people is not a magical medicine. It just makes you look like a coward.

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