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Threadwatch (via SmartMobs) points to an interesting (if lengthy) piece of research by the Social Issues Research Centre about the role of gossip in the context of mobiles.

It seems that gossiping is a real need among humans – a sort of psychological equivalent to grooming. Since the mobile facilitates gossip, they’re a GOOD thing and important to society’s mental health as a whole.

[In] pre-industrial society, when we lived in small, stable communities, and enjoyed frequent ‘grooming talk’ with a tightly integrated social network. In the fast-paced modern world, we had become severely restricted in both the quantity and quality of communication with our social network. Mobile gossip restores our sense of connection and community, and provides an antidote to the pressures and alienation of modern life. Mobiles are a ‘social lifeline’ in a fragmented and isolating world.

So next time you feel like a good gossip, you can also do so in the knowledge that you’re fulfilling a deep-seated social need and helping the mental health of your fellow gossipee.

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