Is gossiping toxic? Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift moment goes viral

Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift embrace one another while chatting at the 2024 Golden Globe Awards.
Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Keleigh Teller were spotted gossiping about an unknown topic while attending the 2024 Golden Globes. (Getty Images)

Following the Golden Globes ceremony over the weekend, a particularly intriguing moment between Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Keleigh Teller has gone viral on social media.

The trio were spotted gossiping about an unknown topic at the star-studded event, with Gomez dropping a morsel of information worthy of gasps and jaw-drops from Swift and Teller. Speculation about what they said flew around the internet, with some suggesting the Only Murders in the Building star was gossiping about Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet.

Gomez has since waved off the rumours in an Instagram comment. Under a post by E! News, which bore the headline "Was Selena Gomez Gossiping About Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet at the Golden Globes? Here’s the Truth", Gomez set the record straight.

"Noooooo I told Taylor about two of my friends who hooked up. Not that that’s anyone’s business," she commented.

The internet’s fascination with the five-second clip has sparked all kinds of opinions about gossip. Some were delighted by Gomez and Swift’s "little gossip session", with many saying they would do the same with their friends, while others frowned on the idea.

Gossip has an undoubtedly bad reputation. It is defined as a "rumour or report of an intimate nature", and is often decried by popular figures who blame gossip for the spread of unsubstantiated rumours that often cause harm in one way or another.

But gossip may not be inherently bad, and has been reframed in recent years as a way of communicating with one another that can actually be helpful - when its intentions are not malicious. Popular podcasts like Normal Gossip, Gossipmongers and Call Your Girlfriend casually swap anonymised “morsels of gossip” in a fun manner.

Why do we gossip?

According to relationship psychologist Limor Gottlieb, humans are social creatures that are "hard-wired for gossip". It’s part of how we evolved to survive, she tells Yahoo UK.

"In our evolutionary past, our ancestors lived in tight-knit groups where everyone knew everyone. Teamwork was crucial for survival, but so was figuring out who could be trusted and who might be competition for partners and resources – sharing information about who’s shady, who’s a catch, and who’s reliable was crucial for navigating social challenges.

"So being nosy about others’ lives wasn’t just a habit, it was a survival skill – and those who were successful at understanding, predicting, and influencing others had a competitive advantage in passing on their genes."

Guys at Pub Drinking Beer Looking at Smartphone and Having a Great Time.
While gossip has a bad reputation, it has been a way of communicating vital information to one another as a means of survival, one expert says. (Getty Images)

On top of being a means of surviving and thriving, gossip is also a type of "social currency" that can help us navigate tricky social hierarchies, says Georgina Sturmer, counsellor MBACP.

"If we struggle with our own confidence or self-esteem, then offering gossip to the crowd can feel like a simple way to boost our social standing. It demonstrates that we are ‘in the know’ and that we can hold a crowd to our attention," Sturmer explains to Yahoo UK.

However, using gossip in this way - whether it’s to "boost our self-esteem or elicit attention from others" - can turn ugly.

Sturmer warns: "Gossiping might build social bonds, but they are laid on precarious foundations. If we attract people to us because of our willingness to gossip, then it’s likely to send them a message that we are untrustworthy. And if they step the wrong way then perhaps they will be the victim of our gossipy nature next time."

Can gossip ever be a positive thing?

This is where things get murky. While Gottlieb believes that gossip can sometimes be a positive thing, Sturmer is less sure that there is really such a thing as “harmless gossip”.

On one hand, Gottlieb says that gossip can “strengthen bonds, provide entertainment, exchange valuable information, and even play a role in conflict resolution” in a social context.

“It can serve as a tool for enforcing social norms and promoting cooperation within a group,” she says. “When used positively, gossip contributes to social cohesion, communication, and the overall functioning of a community.

“Skilled gossipers are often influential and popular within their social circles. So, sharing gossip is a way people bond and build rapport, moreover it signifies deep trust.”

We've all participated in gossip at some point in our lives. (Getty Images)
We've all participated in gossip at some point in our lives. (Getty Images)

Among women in particular, gossip is a powerful tool. “Women often attribute more value to their close friendships, and their sense of self-worth is strongly linked to these intimate connections. So gossip serves as an effective means to foster a deeper understanding and closeness, especially within female friendships.”

Sturmer, on the other hand, says that while “harmless gossip” might seem like “the casual swapping of stories about other people that forms part of everyday small talk”, it can often be a “zero-sum game, with winners and losers”.

“The winner being the person who offers up the gossip to other people, who might gain a sense of social prowess,” she explains. “The loser being the person who is gossiped about, who has stories told behind their back, without a right of reply.”

When the chit-chat turns toxic

We all participate in gossip, sometimes without even realising it. But when gossip is no longer a casual conversation but instead warps into a “sneaky way to compete”, that’s where things turn toxic, especially among women, Gottlieb says.

“It can get pretty aggressive, especially between female friends. According to research, women tend to use gossip to outdo each other, especially when it comes to mates. It gets even more intense during a woman's younger (reproductive) years when the competition for mates/partners is intensified.

“Younger women are especially more likely to use competitive gossip, and they often target rivals and focus on attributes crucial to a woman's reputation in the mating market, such as physical appearance and sexual reputation.”

She describes this type of gossip as being used to hurt other women, damage reputations and mess with others’ relationships, which can have serious consequences on their mental health.

“To identify when gossip has turned toxic, watch for signs like malicious intent to harm, exclusion or alienation of individuals, personal attacks on character, escalation of conflicts, damaging relationships, negative impacts on mental health, and the spread of (false) rumours.”

As for how to cope with someone who loves to gossip, Sturmer recommends thinking about what boundaries you need to have in place so that you can maintain a safe relationship with them - without becoming the subject of gossip yourself.

“You might need to limit what you tell them about yourself, and about other people, in order to stay friends but also protect yourself at the same time,” she says.

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