Social Media

March 20, 2012

Social Networking: The Real Gossip Girl


Image: Koji Minamoto

No Turning Back – That Update You’d Give Anything to Undo

Gone are the days when we could bury awkward things we’ve said or done under a stack of pillows and forget them forever.  Now, with one slip of the finger, or one box left un-ticked, we can experience an unparalleled sense of dread as information is shared instantaneously with everyone we know – and even those we don’t.

And American TV shows have created whole series from this cringe worthy phenomena. Gossip Girl is interesting socially, because for once we’re not just following beautiful people.

Somebody else is watching them too, and they know it.

The anonymous, elusive Gossip Girl herself, charts their every move and publishes any social trip ups for all to see.

But who is this ‘gossip girl’?   

Well, actually, Gossip girl is the internet, and she doesn’t hold back in spreading every tasty piece of gossip that she has got!

And this is how one teen drama becomes a modern expose of how things are today and how quickly ‘news’ spreads round the online and Smartphone communities

Whitter whitter, twitter twitter? 

Image: Quinn Dombrowski

Gossip is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing ‘facts’ and views. It has been instrumental throughout human history for social bonding across large groups.

And now, evidently, it’s easier than ever

Click of a few buttons, that’s all it takes.

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing, we can talk to people in real time on different continents whenever and from wherever about anything we want.  

But with all this easy sharing comes embarrassing mistakes: With just one moment of distraction and the accidental pressing of a key, you can release things into the public domain that were never intended to be ‘outed’, say things you didn’t mean to say, and the news will spread like wildfire.

When you select ‘public’ and don’t realise

Social media by phone makes it even easier to slip up: The screen looks different and the keys are much closer together.

When I was at university, a friend of mine was keeping up with a guy she liked using a Facebook phone app, they secretly liked each other but were ‘playing it cool’.

My friend sneaked a peek at this guy’s profile page during a seminar she was in but got distracted and typed his name into her ‘status’ bar rather than the ‘search’ friend bar.

She didn’t realise and left it up on her page for the whole day so that by the time she had noticed her mistake, there wasn’t anything she could do.

When Anthony Weiner, US representative, made a rookie typo on Twitter last year, “@” rather than “D” for “direct message” he posted a photo of himself online in underwear for all and sundry to see, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him.

Typos that make you look twice

Also gone are the days of carefully handwriting each letter of a word with a pen, it seems we used to be so much more in control of what we wrote.

Last year, Penguin Group Australia had to reprint 7000 copies of a book called The Pasta Bible after somehow printing “salt and freshly ground black people” instead of ‘pepper’. An expensive mistake.

So what lessons have we learnt here? Online sharing is great but if something gets out by mistake you’ll struggle to outrun it.

Do you have an online presence? Facebook? Twitter? Time to double-check those settings the next time you send something out into the gossip stratosphere.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to reread this article for typos. Ah what’s the worst that could happen?


Amalia Dempsey writes blogs for White Pages, an online phone book, great for keeping our many lines of communication open. Whether you hit find address, find person or find business, White Pages is a great reflection of our big online and networked world.

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