Did mama ever tell you to mind your own business or Stay in your own lane? For decades, musicians have been reminding us of the importance of a lesson that often falls on deaf ears. As a matter of fact, in 1949, Hank Williams began swooning about the topic when he sang the lyrics
“If the wife and I are fussin’, brother that’s our right
‘Cause me and that sweet woman’s got a license to fight
Why don’t you mind your own business
(Mind your own business)
‘Cause if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine.”
As powerful as those lyrics may be, it seems that more should be done to encourage people to Stay in Your Own Lane!1 Minding your own business or Staying in your own lane refer to the need for people to disengage from the troublesome act of gossiping or meddling in the affairs of others. As easy as this seems in theory, the act of minding your own business is anything but. As a matter of fact, popular media encourages the contrary. Over the past decade, reality television and social media have become the primary focus of our daily rituals – and both of these present-day fixtures encourage us to tend to the business of others. This is evidenced by participation in the dreaded eternal scroll. The eternal scroll refers to the time spent scrolling through social media sites, reviewing others’ posts. Think about it. As of late 2012, Facebook had accounted for almost one billion active users who collectively spend approximately 20,000 years online each day. This inordinate amount of time encourages users to express their likes, dislikes, interests, and concerns2 all relative to posts and responses of others.
As powerful of a tool as social media has become in connecting and reconnecting individuals, it emboldens individuals to participate in an environment that supports meddling and gossip. This should come as no surprise, however, given the plethora of research that speaks to the ubiquitous nature of gossip and its socially destructive disposition.3 Specifically, one study found gossip to empower the individual gossiping while disempowering the recipients.4 In another, researchers found gossip to be an attention seeking, self-promoting behavior designed to discredit others.3 The effects of gossip are so powerful that when present, gossip has the potential to affect both individuals and couples involved in a relationship. The negativity that stems from gossip can result in a climate of mistrust, which can erode relational confidence and eventually lead to termination of the relationship, platonic or romantic.
Why Gossip? Researchers have given much attention to the motives of those who gossip, which are often self-serving.5 Those who gossip show a need to exert power over others and are less likely to want others to exert power over them. Similarly, those who gossip are more likely to continue gossiping as a means of protecting themselves from being exploited or gossiped about, by others, despite the fact that those who gossip are often disliked by their peers.6 It is not only the peers that express discontentment for the gossipers. Recent research suggests that gossiping results in a reduction in self- esteem for the individual who gossips.7 This in itself may perpetuate the cycle of gossip, which only serves to promote additional negativity.
Will it ever stop? With gossip tied to the current climate of an instant gratification, social media driven society, its unlikely that gossiping will fall off our radar any time soon. In other words, despite the fact that gossiping has deleterious effects on the individual who gossips and those who are the object of the gossip, our social media driven society struggles to recall basic rules of the road…Stay In Your Own Lane. In short, if you have time to concern yourself with the deeds of others, you can’t possibly have time to concern yourself with your own.
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1Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=stay+in+your+lane
2Weiguo, F., & Gordon, M. D. (2014). The power of social media analytics. Communications of the ACM, 57(6), 74-81. doi:10.1145/2602574
3Grosser, T.J., Lopez-Kidwell, V., & Labianca, G. (2010). A social network analysis of positive and negative gossip in organizational life. Group & Organization Management, 35, 177-212.
4Grosser T, Lopez-Kidwell V, Labianca G, & Ellwardt L. (2012). Hearing it through the grapevine. Positive and negative workplace gossip. Organizational Dynamics, 41,52-61.
5Turner, M. M., Mazur, M. A., Wendel, N., & Wilmslow, R. (2003). Relational ruin or social glue? The joint effect of relationship type and gossip valence on liking, trust, and expertise. Communication Monographs, 70, 129–141.
6Farley, S. D., Timme, D. R., & Hart, J. W. (2010). On coffee talk and break-room chatter: perceptions of women who gossip in the workplace. Journal of Social Psychology, 150(4), 361-368.
7Cole, J., & Scrivener, H. (2013). Short term effects of gossip behavior on self-esteem. Current Psychology,32(3), 252-260. doi:10.1007/s12144-013-9176-3
Karla Ivankovich, PhD, LCPC, DCC – Facebook | Website
Karla has earned degrees in a range of disciplines including: Business Administration, Psychology, Human Development Counseling, and INO-Disability Studies. Karla is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who is board certified by the American Psychotherapy Association. Karla teaches Psychology for the University of Illinois at Springfield. In addition, Karla is the co-founder and President of OnePatient Global Health Initiative. Karla also hosts a radio show called Life and Love, with her partner, Dr. Daniel Ivankovich. The show airs on the iHeart radio network.