It starts at a very young age. In middle school, every one wants to know who has a crush on who. In high school, everyone starts trying to figure out who got in trouble over the weekend, or who got wasted at the popular girl's party (so sad). Then in college, the nosiness continues. Everyone thinks they deserve to know what is going on in everyone else's life- it's basically a source of entertainment!
As a young woman, I can honestly say that I think women are much worse about being nosy than men. I can also say that I struggle with nosiness myself. No, I am not nosy for "bad" reasons. I mostly (but not always, I admit) genuinely want to know if people are ok. But that doesn't change the fact that nosiness is bad. If someone wants to confide in me, they can. And if I can tell someone is upset, sure- I can go check on them. But to ask someone personal questions, or to try to pry into their lives is just wrong.
People are not shows that we can binge-watch on Netflix. They are humans with feelings- pains, joys, and sorrows. People's lives are not there for me to read and analyze. Their lives are between them, God, the people they choose to let into their circle. When we try to break into that circle through nosiness, we cause problems that we may have never intended.
It Causes a Divide
When I was in college, there was this girl that I really wanted to be friends with. I wanted her to like me and think a lot of me. And I think she did. I would encourage her every now and then, and we would speak briefly when we saw each other, but we weren't best friends or anything. Well, after we had graduated, I noticed that her relationship status wasn't up on Facebook anymore. I really liked her and her boyfriend and I hoped they were ok and still together. I cared. I really did. So I wrote her on Facebook and asked her about it.
She never said anything about it, but I knew as soon as I hit "send" (and even before I did, really), that that question was not mine to ask. She may not have thought anything of it, but ever since then, I have felt like there's not much chance of developing a friendship. If nothing else, I caused a divide in my own mind and confidence level.
It Makes People Wonder If You Are a Gossip
Most people who are nosy are also gossips, in my experience. Even really good people tend to jump on the gossip train in a heartbeat. I try not to be a gossip, and as a general rule, I feel I do an ok job with it. But even though I'm not like that, when I act nosy and try to pry, I make myself look like I'm a gossip. No, it's not all about people's perceptions of me, but I would like to know that I haven't brought any of those false views upon myself.
You May Start to Feel Entitled
Once you start prying into someone's life, you may start feeling like it's your right to know what's happening in their lives. Believe me- it's not your right, nor is it mine!
Even if we have the best of intentions (like my example from college), we still are not entitled to answers. Just because one person confides in us one time, does not mean that we need to be asking them about every little thing that happens in their lives. It's still none of our business.We may be trying to be kind, but nosiness doesn't come across as kind- it comes across as rude.
You may get addicted to nosiness
We tend do things in small steps at first, but those small steps usually end up turning into giant leaps. We often start with a few M&M's, but that somehow turns into eating half a pan of brownies. Or maybe what starts as one night of drowning our sorrows in a bottle of whiskey turns into a lifetime of drunkenness and despair. In the same way, nosiness starts as wondering if we can pry just a little bit. Maybe we can figure out what's going on- but it turns into a terrible pattern of expecting everyone to share their entire life with us. When they don't, we get offended. When we get offended, we harbor anger. When we harbor anger, we hold grudges. And then we suddenly look back on our lives and realize that we are angry with people who have not wronged us, and we caused a distance between us and people who had the potential to be good friends.
Nosiness Tends to Be Inwardly Focused
When we are nosy, we are often focusing on things that don't matter. It's not that people's problems aren't important- they are. But when I am nosy, I tend to start wondering "What's going on? Why didn't they tell me about it? Maybe they don't like me and don't trust me with their secrets". At that point, my focus is on myself, not on them. They may be struggling with something really big, yet here I am worrying about why they didn't confide in me. I'm more worried about their opinion of me than I am their well-being. At that point, my intentions are no longer kind-hearted. Instead, they are selfish.
After I wrote my friend from college on Facebook trying to pry into her life, I felt so worried about what she thought of me. I was still concerned about her, but I was also very preoccupied with what her opinion of me was. Nosiness has a way of turning good intentions into bad habits and unintended selfishness.
I hope that this will cause all of us to think hard before we allow ourselves to be nosy any longer. How can we stop the cycle? How can show our good intentions and concerns in a more productive and helpful way?
Do you struggle with nosiness? Has it bit you in the butt before?