Use time for entertainment ‘tsismis’ to fact-check relevant issues instead
As a (campus) news writer, it is already a force of habit to routinely check the latest updates on social media platforms. I remember it was already midnight when my Twitter feed was flooded with tags mentioning former Mr. Gay World titlist Wilbert Tolentino and vlogger Zeinab Harake. It turned out that Tolentino revealed screenshots of their conversation revealing Harake’s take on some local show biz personalities.
But what caught my attention goes beyond the spar between Tolentino and Harake. I observed how invested Filipinos are in terms of gossiping—not just about celebrities but just about anyone.
This is not entirely news to many of us. We have seen our friends, relatives, neighbors, and even ourselves being so invested in knowing about the latest happenings. This is colloquially termed “tsismis.” Marilyn Nuevo, in “ Tsismis: Implikasyon sa Wika at Komunikasyon,” explained that tsismis is a resort to disseminate information, a pastime, and form of expression and catharsis from people whose values and behavior they do not agree with.
Many would go far and beyond, acting as though they were media correspondents getting coverage and delivering live updates on a certain issue. In fact, this has been so frequently done it has already been ingrained in our culture and treated as a norm.
One may ask: “What makes a shortcoming of another be a source of entertainment for others?” Why is it so easy for us to intrinsically criticize other people’s lives instead of intensely criticizing our own?
A particular study from the Far Eastern University titled “Gossip in the age of digital reproduction: Revisiting the practice of tsismis in online media” highlighted the grassroots of tsismis in the digital spectrum and how it mirrors the ones who propagate it. Cherish Aileen Brillon, author of the study, emphasized that gossip is framed as being motivated by ego and status needs and is functional in various ways on both personal and collective levels.
On a personal level, gossiping serves as a form of expression of an individual’s desire or expression of anger or uncertainty. It also connects a sense of “belongingness,” “fulfillment,” or “pride” to know certain information first-hand and be someone “in-the-know.”
On the other hand, gossiping reflects a collective response to a certain societal problem since gossiping stems from a transactional discourse of various opinions that aims to contribute to resolving a certain issue. To add, gossiping also reinforces prevailing values and social mores in society.
Brillon also indicated the dynamic in the process of gossiping. She regarded that mass media gossip can be interpreted using a theory by Blumler and Katz in 1974 called “uses and gratifications theory,’’ which deals with the understanding of why people need and use certain types of media and what they gain in using them.
Brillon stated that the producer of gossip has the capacity to manage (or gatekeep) information especially when it comes from a certain form of economic/political power while the consumer (audience/netizens), gains from the entertainment provided by the gossip that can be in a form of distraction from the normality of everyday life, the feeling of being a privileged insider, and delight in knowing the shortcomings and misfortunes of successful people. Personally, I could also relate this to the toxic trait of crab mentality wherein they would do anything to get ahead of one another in terms of success—even if it meant dishonoring them by tarnishing their reputation with allegations and gossip.
In retrospect, tsismis is one of the favorite Filipino pastimes as talking about each other’s life updates surely is entertaining. However, we must also assess ourselves to what limit we could attain information about other people and criticize their life before our own. In today’s age where open communication exists, we must also uphold morality and respect for the boundaries of people’s private lives and the trust attributed to having access beyond these boundaries.
From this standpoint, it can be said that gossiping motivates people to do intensive research on others they may or may not know. This skill may instead be used for fact-checking issues that matter and have substantial effects on our lives and the entirety of society. If done effectively, the act of tsismis may evolve into a bifunctional communicative event that simultaneously offers situationally appropriate entertainment and alleviates its practice to a more efficient discourse.
Zarena C. Hermogeno,
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila
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