Virtual gossip: How gossip regulates moral life in virtual worlds

Katleen Gabriels, Charlotte De Backer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores to what extent the functions of interpersonal offline gossip can be mapped on to the virtual community of Second Life and its subsequent in-world and out-world interactions. A long-term hybrid ethnographic study was conducted that involved recurrent actual and virtual meetings with informants. The main objectives are, first, to look for similarities and to explain dissimilarities and, second, to gain some much-needed insight into how moral life is structured in social virtual communities and how important the role of gossip is. Results show overlaps between online and offline gossip concerning uses and functions. Gossip is important as a means for reputation management; as a cultural learning system; as a sanctioning system; and as entertainment. Just as in traditional offline communities, gossip is a central mechanism to regulate virtual moral life that stretches out to blogs, websites, and face-to-face meetings. Yet, technology amplifies the effects by creating new possibilities such as logging the evidence in order to spot cheaters. This way, in-world gossip becomes an inflated form of traditional gossip.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-693
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Virtual Worlds
  • Gossip
  • Second Life
  • Morality


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