One of the basic glues of modern society is gossip.
You know: Talking to friends and colleagues about rumors and happenings. Meaningless babble.
Apparently we are hard-wired to stand around the water cooler and chew the fat since in the good old days knowing what was going on saved having our own fat being chewed up.
“Say, did you hear Uncle Henry was eaten at the river by a lion about sunset?” may not have been a fact but rest assured that if we heard there were fierce felines lurking by the water hole around dusk we would go for our martini at noon.
Our ancestors who didn’t pay attention to gossip ended up dead relatives. Probably in small pieces.
In the October 2008 edition of Scientific American Mind, social psychologist Professor Frank T. McAndrew claimed gossip is “a more complicated and socially important phenomenon than we think.” It’s how people and communities survived.
I’ll buy that, Professor Frank.
Which brings us to the cellular phone, which we call the cell phone.
In most other countries it’s the mobile phone. And, in other countries you don’t have a cell number, you have a mob number.
Mob is another name for an unruly group. Mobs spend a lot of time dealing in gossip. Could that be how we form mobs in 2012?
Here’s a Chicago Flash Mob. I bet they used cell phones to coordinate this.
The other day I took a young friend out for lunch. He makes $250 a month and goes to school full time. He spends $90 a month on cell phone calls.
One third of his money goes to cell phones and prepaid cards.
When I was his age and in roughly the same economic/educational situation I spent one or two per cent of my money on a phone.
I paid five bucks to share a dorm phone and I had a fistful of dimes (yes, there was a time you could make a call for ten cents) instead of a prepaid card.
The International Telecommunication Union says about five billion people will subscribe to these gadgets this year.
There are seven billion people now on planet Earth.
Almost five billion people talking on cell phones; now that’s a big mob.
Okay, now it’s time for a theory.
Cell Phones Fight Crime
Cell phones promote gossip. As in the days of the caveman, this gossip helps us survive.
As a matter-of-fact, one of my best friends, who was a Mountie, and is now in charge of security for a major university, points out that people are becoming less social because of cell phones and other electronic toys.
But even though they are more detached, they need to chatter. Welcome to cyber gossip.
Remember social scientists say gossip kept people alive.
Add to that the technology of the cell phone and we have an astonishing survival tool.
All those cell phones, each with a camera, helps ID the bad guys and often scares them off.
And, the fact that you could be videoed by five out of six people sitting on the bus with you might discourage some thug from becoming a bully or a rabble rouser.
Who wants to see his mug on the five o’clock news?
Cell phones probably work better than guns, tasers or mace. Bad boys can grab your weapons and turn them against you.
If they wrestle away your phone all they can do is snap your photo and then the police can track and catch them with the GPS in your cell.
In short, cell phones lead to less socialization and we fill those moments with gossip.
Perhaps the saturation of places like New York with millions of cell (mob) phones generating endless gossip might explain the plunge in violent crime.
And here is my latest novel. It’s about a religious nut. Me.
(You should be 18 to read it.)