On Gossip, Misunderstandings, and Explanations

communicationI put myself in a difficult situation two years ago. I posted something on Facebook knowing that it might be misconstrued because of the timing and content. I thought I had been careful. I considered who would see it before posting it, and I thought I was in the clear. I wasn’t. Someone who I hardly knew saw it. She not only saw it, she shared it with a mutual friend, but someone who isn’t even on my Facebook friend’s list. I’m afraid she misrepresented me and the meaning of my words, because despite it not being a comment directed at anyone in particular, it was easily interpreted as such. Her sharing it resulted in me becoming the topic of a conversation in which I was not included…all based on assumptions and misrepresentations. I know she didn’t intend to cause harm, but harm was the result.

When I learned of this whole unfolding, at first I felt slightly embarrassed that I may have hurt anyone’s feelings. I was kicking myself for my carelessness. But then, I just got really angry. Whose right was it to share anything I posted to my friends? Whose right was it to then discuss my life, and why I might have posted it, all without checking in with me to see if it were the case? Gossip and I have never mixed well. I am always shocked to discover anyone is talking about me with others. I mean, what’s the fascination? Or is it simple deflection? If one is talking about others, one’s own messy personal life remains out of the discussion?

After this unfortunate incident, I had visions of news of this spreading through the small group of which I was a part. I imagined myself the subject of their speculations. It turned my stomach; I didn’t want to be talked about. I especially didn’t want anyone drawing erroneous conclusions about my motivations or feelings, all based on a rumor. I had a small window of opportunity to clear the air. Ironically (or if I’m honest, perhaps intentionally, life swept in and other things came up, closing that window, making everything even worse because it now appeared that not only was their perception of my post confirmed, it seemed I truly wanted nothing more to do with these women. While that wasn’t true when I wrote my post, it slowly became true for me once my trust was broken.

I asked myself many questions in my effort to process the event. Do I place myself in their company again? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Am I simply moving on and enjoy different company? Do I bring up the issue and attempt to iron out any grievances and misunderstandings? I’ve long since let the matter pass, somewhat unresolved.

But I have learned some things, the most obvious being to take more care with what I post on Facebook or elsewhere. I had to even debate with myself about writing this post! But I’m a writer. This is what I do. This is how I process. Maybe my only failing was in letting it all slide, ignoring my power to change the outcomes. While I can’t always prevent others from taking things I might say personally or in the wrong manner, I can do what is necessary as soon as possible to correct their perceptions. Maybe I should have confronted things immediately, including my anger at my privacy being betrayed. Live and learn.

I’d love to hear from others how they feel about gossip. Do you consider it normal, neutral, harmful, cultural? Have you ever been the subject of it? What was the outcome? Thanks for sharing!

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