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Am I right to be embarrassed by my friends' constant gossip?

This week it's Andy, from Kimmage, who doesn't do gossip. On the other hand his friends do plenty. And it embarrasses him to hell.

Dear Spike,

My friends, male and female, are big into gossip. Every time we meet there's always some new rumour or scandal doing the rounds.

They yak constantly on their mobiles too and some of the stuff they spread, you wouldn't believe.

Am I right to be embarrassed by this?

Spike replies:

Andy, what a decent human being you are. Your attitude does you great credit. And what a better world it would be if we all weren't so preoccupied with what's going on (or not) in other people's lives.

Alas, life's not like that. Many of us (and you can include ol' uncle Spike in that, I'm afraid) are utterly absorbed by gossip, rumour and scandal. "What?" we say. "Actor A is shagging singer B who's married to politician C who's having a same-sex affair with chat show host D? Really? Come on, spill the beans."

And the juicier and more scurrilous the better. Gossip and scandal helps sell newspapers -- you are probably too young to remember the famous headline "Freddie Starr ate my hamster".

Most gossip is harmless. Sometimes it's mere tittle-tattle that we'd forget after five minutes. Much of it attaches to celebs, to whom these stories cling like moths to a flame and who seem to value the publicity anyhow. Presumably, they reckon that even bad publicity is better than no publicity.

But that's not the whole story. Gossip does get corrosive when it's untrue or when it's put out with the single objective of damaging someone's reputation or hurting their feelings. And in this case you'd be dead right to be wary, even to the point of warning your friends not to indulge in scandal mongering of this nature.

>Here's what readers think:

Andy, get a life. Everyone's into gossip, to the extent where it's geeky, even freaky, not to be. My guess is you're a bit of a prude as well.

Catherine, Churchtown

Gossip is really hurtful when it gets back to the person being gossiped about. My sister needed to go for counselling because some of the things her so-called 'friends' were saying about her on Facebook really upset her.

Barry, Rathmines

Andy, you seem a really decent, principled guy. Well done. I dumped a boyfriend recently because he spread gossip about me to all his mates and even some of my girlfriends. Much of it was untrue as well.

Deirdre, Sutton

YOU need to loosen up. Gossip is part of human nature -- you don't have to like it.

Miranda, Howth