Have you heard? Professor touts gossip as fundamental to survival

From the Times Record News (Wichita Falls, TX):

It’s easy to get caught up in today’s riptide of gossip.

The Internet has turned it into an ever-present force, like spam e-mail and gravity, and traditional media have responded to the competitive pressure by offering more of it. Celebrity babies, divorces and dalliances are as inescapable as daybreak, and the result has been a rise in people bemoaning the form’s ubiquity and what they see as concurrent cultural debasing.

Even with names that aren’t often written in bold, social networking tools, from Facebook to Twitter, allow us to keep up with “status changes” in the lives of both friends and “friends” to a degree that gives many of us pause….

“People who had no interest in the private affairs of other people just got left in the dust,” said Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., who has written about gossip.

“The assumption people seem to make is, if we’re interested in gossip or celebrities, that in some way it reflects badly on us as individuals,” McAndrew said. “Most of my research says it really isn’t the case, that it’s just human nature to be interested in what other people are up to.”