“Does Maggie Gyllenhaal Still Have Taylor Swift’s Scarf, 7 Years Later?” inquires one E! News writer in a headline. “Check Out Pippa Middleton’s Cute New Haircut!” another titles an article. “Jennifer Lawrence Gets Into a Bar Fight in Budapest!” writes yet another, trying to grab your attention. All of these have one thing in common: they are all frivolous topics that, after they are read, will probably be forgotten in a few days. Here’s the thing though: millions of people will read all three. This celebrity “news” will be ingested by the general public and soon thrown out of our brains. Now, not everything we read has to be educational and of utmost importance. However, why do we read these unimportant, using-as-few-brain-cells-as-possible articles? Why do we enjoy hearing about the celebrity feud of the week?
Not all people are like me, but I loathe celebrity drama. In most cases, I could not care less about who is upset with who because they tweeted something borderline microagressive. However, when Taylor Swift dropped the first single off her upcoming album “Reputation,” filled to the brim with hate for multiple Hollywood icons, I was all over it. As neither a huge Swift fan nor someone who enjoys hearing about the pettiness of the famous, I had no idea why I suddenly wanted to research exactly what Kanye West said to her in 2009.
From the music video “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift. (Source)
In a study published in the journal Social Neuroscience, brain scans were taken of participants as they were shown both positive and negative gossip about themselves, their friends, and celebrities. The three categories of gossip ranged in positivity and negativity. When asked to rate how they felt after each statement, everyone said they were happier when they heard positive things about themselves and more annoyed at the negative comments. Though most claimed they were indifferent to the drama about other people, their fMRI scans said otherwise. Brain activity significantly increased in the portion of the brain known as the caudate nucleus, showing that participants were amused at the very least.
In a similar study, psychologists conducted several experiments where participants were shown a series of positive and negative words, each only visible for a moment. When asked to repeat the words they had seen and understood, negative words were predominant. The conclusion was that downbeat words like “cancer,” “bomb,” and “war” registered much faster than the positive words.
From these two studies, we can safely assume that our brains are simply wired to enjoy gossip. Some would argue that this is an evolutionary tactic that has nothing to do with negativity at all; rather, it’s about knowing what people of high social status are up to in order to be more like them. Obviously, we know that evolution is a myth, and God hand-made our brains the way they are. Some people love to keep track of all the juiciest details in Hollywood. However, as is the case with any other thing, we cannot let it rule our lives.
Ephesians 5:20–“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When we are glorifying God by giving thanks for everything in our lives, there is less time for negativity and unimportant matters.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
So, while it may be scientifically “beneficial” to indulge in gossip, it is made clear in the Bible that there are plenty of other more wholesome ways to spend our free time. Celebrity news surrounds us, and while it is near impossible to block it out one hundred percent of the time, we should all rely on Jesus to help us keep every area of our lives pure for Christ.
Sources: Aarts, Henk, and Ap Dijksterhuis. “On Wildebeests and Humans.” Psychological Science. N.p., 1 Jan. 2003. Web.
Dovey, Dana. “Rumor Has It: The Science Behind Why We Love Celebrity Gossip And Tabloid Magazines.” Medical Daily. N.p., 24 Nov. 2015. Web.
Jarrett, Christian. “Your Brain On Celebrity Gossip.” Wired. Conde Nast, 03 June 2017. Web.
Peng, X., Y. Li, P. Wang, L. Mo, and Q. Chen. “The Ugly Truth: Negative Gossip about Celebrities and Positive Gossip about Self Entertain People in Different Ways.” Social Neuroscience. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 Jan. 2015. Web.