Small town syndrome is defined in the urban dictionary as “when someone has lived for so long in a small town that they form a sense of entitlement to themselves and act as if there isn’t a relevant world outside of their town. Someone with small-town syndrome is usually majorly concerned with gossip and events only happening with people in their town and let their life revolve around such meaningless rumours. Parents and adults who have small town syndrome engage in cliquey behaviour. People with small town syndrome usually don’t realise they act this way and may be insulted if pointed out. People with small-town syndrome may have lots of trouble adjusting to life in the real world or if they decided to move out of their said town”.

Although I am not new to the concept of small-town syndrome, I have noticed that it has grown in popularity on social media in recent months. But what has all of this got to do with mental health? Well, in my opinion, this concept is very important to understand and be aware of in terms of looking after our mental health.

I would suggest that being consumed by local gossip is not healthy for anyone at all however more detrimental to people who may be more affected by it. I think people may be more affected by it if they do not necessarily want to engage in the gossip but often what happens in small towns (or even big towns and cities) is that people get sucked into company where gossip is normalised and seems to be the only thing that is on peoples minds.
However, are the very people who are venting small-town syndrome views online (all of who can’t stand the idea of it!) caught up in their own small-town syndrome on social media? Although not limited by geographical boundaries, influencers and social media personas do seem to be engaging in cliquey behaviour online themselves and may be caught up in the very gossip that they may vent about or the so called ‘small-town syndrome’.
Is gossip on any level healthy? I would tend to lean towards a big fat NO. Yes, talking about others is of course natural and very human and probably essential for survival in a social sense however when it becomes comparative, belittling, gossip like or a means of a short term boost to ones own confidence – I would suggest it is poisonous, toxic and negative for an individual or group well-being. We can see how it has affected sports teams, for example where team players get entangled in the gossip and become the headlines themselves having an adverse effect on performance.
Shtay miles clear hi! When people start talking about others in a negative way, ask yourself – would I like if someone was talking about me like this? The answer is probably no so why engage, facilitate, contribute or even listen to gossip about someone else. We don’t know what is going on in peoples lives and judgement of others is not healthy for anyone. But I guess it can be difficult to stop the habit of local gossip.
How do you tell the person who you normally gossip with that you do not want to engage in gossip any longer without offending them? This is a difficult one however your boundaries are important and what is comfortable for you is very important. Gossip will eat away at your heart and soul over time so nip in the bud as soon as possible. If your friend has empathy and compassion, they will understand. You could start by changing the subject to something like – a) plans for the weekend b) how is work going c) how is your family etc. If your friend persists in gossiping, you will have to be clear about what you are comfortable talking about.
I do believe that local gossip and so called ‘small town syndrome’ are negative for overall well-being and mental health. Of course, there is joy in living on a small island like Ireland and there is a huge sense of community and belonging as everyone seems to know someone who knows someone! However, this small-town syndrome and local gossip is a more sinister concept and can lead to bullying, low self-esteem, a closed mindset and negative mental health. Steer clear of local gossip where possible and focus on your own growth as a person. I would personally move to the other side of the world to avoid local gossip and the risk of being sucked into that mentality!