52 minutes of gossip in a day

by Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Mohamedarif-Mohamed-SulemanMohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.


Conversations are essential for human communication, learning, and social bonding. However, in the digital age, many people rely more on social media and digital devices than face-to-face interactions. This can have negative effects on the quality and quantity of conversations.

According to Deloitte’s 202 Digital media trends survey summary, social media services deliver personalized feeds of images, video, music, news, gaming, and shoppable media to billions of users, who spend more time and attention on them than on other forms of entertainment. The same survey also found that younger generations gravitate toward more interactive and social experiences, such as gaming and online communities, where they can escape into other worlds and find meaning and connection.

However, these online experiences may not be able to replace the benefits of real conversations, such as empathy, trust, and emotional support. Moreover, they may also create distractions, misunderstandings, and conflicts that hinder effective communication. Therefore, it is important to balance the use of social media and digital devices with the practice of genuine and respectful conversations.

Gossip and rumour are also very common forms of communication that can have harmful effects on individuals and society. They can spread false, misleading, or malicious information that can damage reputations, relationships, and trust. They can also create conflicts, divisions, and misunderstandings among people.

According to a study by Time magazine, people spend an average of 52 minutes a day gossiping, mostly about neutral topics, but also about negative or positive ones. The study suggests that gossip can serve some social functions, such as bonding, information sharing, and social learning. However, it can also be used to hurt others, especially when it involves personal or sensitive issues.

In ‘More talk, less action, Erin Coulehan, a free-lance journalist cites as follows:

Survey respondents reported a reduction in things like everyday manners, with 66 per cent agreeing that common courtesy is a lost art. The cause for losses in conversation and courtesy is due in large part — you guessed it — to our phones. Sixty-one per cent of survey respondents believed technology has negatively impacted our ability to have meaningful face-to-face conversations. This occurs because people have become conditioned to check their phones 76 times per day, a rude distraction for any interlocutor. Additionally, excessive phone use causes a person to become accustomed to keeping their head down, which of course greatly reduces eye contact and one’s level of comfort with it. And quite simply, our phones have made us terrible at communicating out loud and in person.

Another reason for the decline in in-person conversation is reduced ability and willingness to listen. How often do we absorb a friend’s or lover’s words instead of waiting for an opportunity to jump in? Are we all guilty of dismissing someone’s feelings or news as easily as we scroll through a user’s social media pages? It’s not surprising that selfie culture has led to self-destructing social skills but it’s sad to think we’ve willingly enclosed ourselves to the confines of our phones, head bowed enough to update the digital world on what we’re doing but not enough to see where we’re going.

Turning to our own community, we find these trends already present in many of us – our conversations tend to be lame – either leaning towards baseless efforts of humour, scaremongering or plain and pure gossip. Unfortunately, this is the case across all age groups where every network at any age seems to know much about the private affairs of many other brethren. The other signs of constant fixation on devices outside of work and inability to behave appropriately in social situations, are all very common signs amidst us.

Gossip is the act of spreading unverified, scandalous, or hurtful information about others, usually behind their backs. Gossip can have many negative effects on individuals and society, such as:

  • Destroying a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Leading to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health issue
  • Ruining reputations and relationships
  • Causing conflicts, divisions, and misunderstandings among people
  • Lowering morale and productivity in the workplace
  • Inviting retaliation and violence
  • Coming back to haunt the gossiper

Therefore, gossip should be avoided and replaced with respectful and truthful communication.

Islam teaches that gossip and rumour are sinful and harmful to believers and society in general. The Quran warns against spreading rumours, gossip, or backbiting another person. It also advises believers to verify the truth of any news they hear and to avoid suspicion, spying, or mockery of others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) defined backbiting as saying something about a person that he dislikes, whether it is true or false. He also said that a Muslim is one who avoids harming others with his tongue.

Therefore, Islam encourages healthy and respectful conversations that are based on facts, wisdom, and kindness. It discourages any form of speech that is based on lies, speculation, or malice. It urges believers to be mindful of their words and their consequences.

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