Community Perspectives Just Between the Two, or Three, or Four...of Us

Insidious is not a word that usually comes to mind when think of community association living. But then again, we don't generally think of any insidious phenomena around us as being insidious. Need an example? While majority of Americans struggle with weight issues, the weight gain itself is completely insidious; it creeps up an ounce at a time. The same goes for aging—no one looks vastly different from one day to another, but if you compare photographs of the same person taken 10 years apart, the effects of aging are apparent and pronounced.

As insidious social phenomena go, gossiping and its effects can likely grab the top spot of affecting our lives and judgment in insidious ways. All of us live in a culture that has institutionalized gossiping through many channels. Consider the many news and entertainment programs that are based on gossiping, particularly where celebrities are concerned. Think of "Extra," "Entertainment Tonight," and

People magazine, just to name a few television programs and publications. These media outlets would not exist, much less thrive, if there were not market demand for them. You are probably thinking, "We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, so it makes sense."

But consider, on the other hand, the average community association, which is not exactly overrun by celebrity residents. Or are they? The truth is that gossiping has very deep roots and is an omnipresent problem, even in community associations. One does not have to be a celebrity to become a gossip target, and gossiping is quite commonplace in community associations.

It is noteworthy, that while most people believe that gossiping has a somewhat negative connotation or undertone, social scientists are divided in their view of the social roles and functions of gossiping. Some argue that gossiping plays a potent part as a mechanism for social control, especially by people who are underprivileged, disenfranchised, and have no recourse to other forms of social control or influence. This is the most charitable and positive view of gossiping, and is indeed the case in some instances. But these explanations are not the primary reason why gossiping flourishes.

Gossiping appeals to people on a deep psychological level because it provides access to restricted information, feeding a person's sense of exclusivity. Gossiping taps into that inherent delight of being let in on a secret. It helps build a sense of closeness and intimacy between the parties that share the gossip. It makes people feel special. When this happens, it usually occurs in seemingly innocuous, unnoticeable ways. Rarely does anyone consciously think that being let in on gossip singles out the individual as someone whose innermost psychological yearnings are being tapped. No, most people don't think in those terms, just as (hypochon- driacs aside) most people do not concern themselves on a minute-by- minute basis whether their hearts and other vital organs function properly.

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