I realized why I hated Zoom parties at the last one I ever attended, around this time last year. Sure, the medium helped us feel connected, however tenuously, during the early days of the pandemic. But that night, as I pretended to stare at my friends (really just checking out my own face in the tiny box), I finally acknowledged what was missing: not enough gossip!
I had long stopped caring about work-from-home domestic dramas. Someone walked into another person’s video call—big whoop. The juicier stories like who was breaking quarantine to go party didn’t make us feel good. Every single day brought a new collapse. It was crisis after crisis, and soon enough even that felt mundane. We entered a gossip desert.
It wasn’t as though we had nothing to talk about. As Joseph Longo wrote for MEL last year, social media birthed a “new tabloid renaissance.” People found celeb scoop on TikTok, Instagram accounts like Deux Moi, and gossip-specific email newsletters.
But celebrities weren’t nearly as entertaining when competing for airtime with a deadly pandemic or the last, desperate gasps of Donald Trump’s administration. We followed stars, sure, but mostly for the hate clicks.
They were out-of-touch: Madonna called the pandemic a “great equalizer” while lounging comfortably in a bathtub, and Gal Gadot enlisted a bunch of her hot and famous friends to sing “Imagine” in protest of… we never quite found out.
Sometimes we found comfort in the fact that celebs remained entirely unrelatable throughout a pandemic that upended everyone’s lives: we watched Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck do quarantine through the eyes of a paparazzi camera. When they split in January, a trash collector infamously threw a life-size de Armas cardboard cutout in the trash.
Things have changed. Now half of adults in this country are vaccinated, and Ben Affleck is back together with his old flame Jennifer Lopez. What do those statements have in common? Well, celebrities are back to being messy. But so are normal people, too.
There are parties to attend, fights to be had, a summer which promises debauchery and bacchanalian excess. At the very least, expect many conversations that start with, “You know what I heard…”
Longtime gossip and party columnist Michael Musto agreed that the pandemic—and the manic trajectory of Donald Trump’s presidency, which dominated our attention spans—killed gossip for a bit.
“The administration was full of cover-ups and attacks and botched crises,” Musto told The Daily Beast. “In the midst of all that, something like Justin Timberlake touching the hand of a woman on a movie set seemed even more boring than normal. Then when you add the pandemic, people dying and unemployed, nobody cared about what Hillary Duff was doing.”
Musto is often asked to comment for TV segments, but “starting with Trump” those requests began to dry up. “The channels that made time for gossip didn’t need to anymore—Trump was gossip,” he explained. “They already got ratings from that. And with the pandemic, it was inappropriate. People stopped for a while even tweeting Facebook recipes or pictures of their dogs, personal stuff. The tone of those kinds of posts were wrong for those moments—but it’s all coming back.”
Movies and theaters are reopening, so there’s suddenly a reason to care about entertainers and their personal lives again. But more than that, now is the time for personal dramas.
“We can look at each other, see the whole face, touch, and kiss,” Musto said. “So that’s a whole new wave of gossip and drama in our own lives.”
Tell me about it. I have not been this catty since the eighth grade. My friends agree—this week, as temperatures in the city heated up and people gleefully prepared for a long holiday weekend—I found myself swapping all kinds of stories.
“I don’t want to gossip,” a friend of mine said before launching into somewhat smutting news about person we know and his new girlfriend. “Actually, I do,” she corrected herself. Of course she does! Now is the time to dish, unabashedly and unapologetically.
Laura Effland, LICSW, the clinical director of Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center in Bellevue, Washington, isn’t a big fan of gossip. In her words, “It ultimately doesn’t benefit anyone.” But she’ll grant that there’s a pent-up demand for it.
“We are all starved for connection and conversation,” Effland said. “Some of us may also feel socially anxious when connecting with others. Gossiping is akin to a good story, something to spice up the conversation. It is a quick way to feel connected to the person who you are sharing this opinion or judgement with.”
Bianca Kamhi, an accountability coach and creator of the self-help program Living With Bianca, added that, “People who have suffered from fear, self-destruction, or a voice of intimacy in relationships may feel the need to gossip.” It’s a way to temporarily feel better, a little boost.
Anyone who feels like the pandemic killed their social prowess could find the cattiness a welcome means of connection. “Gossip is often used as an ice-breaker for people who aren’t sure what to say in a new social situation,” Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University said. “Bringing up something slightly ‘juicy’ about someone you share in common can open the line of communication.”
Dr. Hafeez also shared a 2019 study which found that the average person spends 52 minutes a day gossiping. So get going.