Definition: Some people believe that the minutiae of their lives deserves to make the front page of the Times. Over-exaggeration and hyperbole are the name of the game. Every single text, chance encounter, or pseudo-celebrity-sighting, as well as every other bit of gossip about anyone else that they might overhear, is newsworthy. This means that every sentence that comes out of your mouth (especially if it pertains to something exciting) and every move you make will likely be brought up in conversation later with god-knows-who. If the overexcited gossip is your roommate, prepare to be woken up by them standing over you yelling, “You will NEVER believe the text I just got!”
Exaggerated archetype: Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, and me. Like actual me, Meredith. Ask anyone (especially my mom).
If you’re the target: One classic overexcited gossip move is uploading potentially unflattering photos to Facebook without the permission of the people in the photo. She just wants the world to know that everyone’s getting ready for the dance at her house—but one of your eyes is closed and your bra is hanging out. By the time you catch it and untag yourself, it’s too late.
Or maybe she’s out at dinner with a mutual friend recounting a super-juicy story you told her the night before—and now, not only does her dinner companion associate you with gossip, but she also knows where you really were last night when you canceled the plans you had to study with her. The real issue with the overexcited gossip is that she’s focused on other people’s lives instead of her own. There might be major consequences for you, but she’s just the messenger. Your business is her business to do with as she will—and that is really not cool.
If she ran her mouth to the point where someone’s feelings got hurt, like with your friend at dinner, you’re going to have to own up to whatever third party you’ve offended. Be honest when you apologize and say you’ll never do it again. Then put a brief, private ban on hanging out with that overexcited friend of yours until she can learn to talk about her own life instead.
The overexcited gossip is a problem because she prioritizes her own excitement and storytelling ability over other peoples’ boundaries. They love being the center of attention, which means that when they’re in the spotlight, they’re not necessarily thinking about other people—they’re doing whatever it takes to remain in focus. We live in a world where over sharing is often rewarded—social media is reliant on people’s willingness to share their experiences and opinions, but we’ve all seen what happens when someone shares the wrong story or picture. The overexcited gossip’s need to document every little thing presents a risk, insofar as the more information you share, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
It’s no fun to feel like you’re constantly being watched. People like this are often enthusiastic to the point where they legitimately don’t realize what they’re doing is wrong—after all, they’re just talking about the amazing life they live in the company of such incredible humans, blah blah blah—so don’t be shy about pointing this behavior out when you see it.
If you’re the gossip: Dude, knock it off already! You might think your friends are the greatest people in the world (which, that’s fair—I bet they rule), and that you’re doing everyone a favor by collecting all these stories for the best-selling memoir you’ll write after they’re all famous, but really what you’re doing is making people feel like there’s constantly a journalist in the room.
When you make other people’s lives the focus of your own, you’re actually doing yourself a great disservice. The most innocuous story can turn out to be damaging if told to the wrong person. In class, at the café, whenever you’re in crowds, you never know who’s listening! You might be putting your friends’ well-being in jeopardy by sharing their every move. Maybe something seemingly inconsequential was actually told to you in confidence. Imagine how it would feel if someone did that to you. You can’t be 100 percent sure, ever, so your best bet is to not tell at all. Don’t upload pictures of people to the internet or tag them in status updates without their permission, either—some people just don’t want the world to know their every move, and if their safety is in jeopardy, they might have very good reasons for not wanting to be geotagged. You might not always be privy to that information, so again, it’s always better to ask first!
Though this all might seem fairly innocent, people are going to stop inviting you around if they don’t think you can keep your mouth shut. Consider the impact of every word you say about someone who isn’t you, especially in group settings. Remember that once you stop focusing on other peoples’ lives so much, you’re free to live your own, and to make it as overwhelmingly exciting and magical as you want it to be. ♦