Millenial Muckrakers


Ari Barajas

I’ve always been the weird, quiet kid: short red hair; wearing clothes from 1960-1980; earbuds always in; and talking three, maybe four, times a day at school. Growing up as an outsider, I’ve learned to stay reserved and to get out of people’s ways. Don’t make them stare. Always stay in the background. Most importantly, don’t lose myself in drama. I’ve never positively dealt with being the center of attention.

After going to Skyline High School for two years, I was going to be attending Community High School as an incoming junior. I’ve always gone to schools rather on the large side, so going from 2,000 kids to 530 kids was a big shock. The shock was partly that in smaller schools, everybody knows everything about everyone else. I was just unaware about how much gossip actually occurred.

During my first week, I’d found that my classmates and peers thrived when something occured: big or small, good or bad. No matter what, there was always someone “being a psycho,” or something that was “totes-adorbes”. Nothing went under the radar. Between late October and early November of 2017, I wasn’t in the background anymore. A gossip worthy event had happened to me, and since humans crave validation and the need to connect with others, the attention had eventually spread like a tree’s roots. That event mixed with my appearance gave a lot of people reason to stare.

“That really doesn’t match with her pants.”

“She should really reevaluate herself.”

I was no longer invisible in the hallways. People I didn’t know would turn themselves around and stare at me. Friend groups at lunch tables would smile and whisper to each other. A group of six people stopped their whole conversation just to look at me.

My stomach felt like it just hatched a crap ton of butterflies. My anxiety was through the roof. I started shaking and my heart was beating at an overwhelming rate. Did these people really not have anything better to do? Why me? I’d always loved how I dressed and looked, but for some reason my mind was getting altered by underclassmen. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I had never experienced being the subject of small talk. This was a constant occurrence for a week and a half. I was worried about what people were saying about me, but I was more confused as to why people found it so necessary to gossip.

Having classmates talk about you creates a different feeling than just strangers passing by on the street. There is more of an intimate connection because of being around each other so much. I’ve felt that being surrounded by your peers not only adds an element of competition, but also a need to connect with others and to be validated. Gossiping fulfills those needs. When gossiping with someone you may not know very well, it brings you closer and makes you able to relate closely on a certain subject. Along with that, it also brings intense validation from the other person who is finding a liking to what you’re saying.

Needless to say, it made me feel like crap. This could just be my anxiety talking, but I felt like I couldn’t do anything without someone noticing and turning it against me.

In attempts to try and understand why people find it so gratifying and intriguing, I asked some Community students why gossip is so apparent in teens and adults. “[School] just kind of creates a closed off environment and I think that a closed off environment provides a space where it’s easier to gossip and to spread things about people,” said an anonymous student. “It’s so prevalent in our lives because as teenagers, our whole lives are our peers, people our own age, and our friends. People we interact with on a daily basis.

Another student responded with: “People are naturally drawn to wanting to hear drama and something interesting without actually being involved. They just want to talk about it.”

The students had a point. People who gossip usually don’t really have a lot to talk about besides other students their age. Being in the same building for eight hours a day, five times a week can drive a person mad. People who gossip love excitement and commotion, without directly being involved. They are only human.

As hurtful as gossip can be, it isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t something that can go away in a few years, or even a hundred. The drive that humans have to gossip and to talk poorly about others is permanent. There will always be those snakes who find it their life purpose to talk to their acquaintance about what gossip they’d heard in precalc. You can either absorb the comments and negativity, or brush it off. I know it’s easier said than done but when going to highschool, it can be a necessity to grow a thick skin.

Now when people stare, I only smile. I’m learning that constantly thinking and stressing over strangers opinions and gazes is exhausting. Their opinions won’t matter in a year or so. If people are going to stare, you might as well give them something to stare at.