An article published in the current issue of Personal Relationships finds the good in bad gossip. Research shows that sharing negative attitudes about others may have positive consequences; it promotes closeness and friendship. In their study, the authors find that negative attitudes are frequently shared among friends and can even promote friendships among strangers.
Gossip is alluring because it establishes in-group/out-group boundaries, boosts self-esteem, and conveys highly informative information about the attitude holder. "We certainly do not deny that gossip behavior has it drawbacks," the authors state. "Still, if there is a positive side of gossip, we believe it is that shared, mild, negative attitudes toward others can create and/or amplify interpersonal intimacy."
OK, this seems sort of obvious -- since people take such pleasure in sharing these negative details about others. As in, "Don't you hate it when...X does Y...blah blah blah...so annoying...blah blah...can you believe him...blah blah blah...."
Well, maybe there's a limit. But it beats talking about the weather.