Over the years, I've come to participate in a number of websites, Somehow, when I get really involved... I end up getting asked to be on staff and eventually promoted to the highest ranks possible outside of ownership groups and those folks. You know the ones. They wear those collared dress shirts with short-sleeves a couple sizes too tight? They have 19 computers in their house and a can of Sprite.
Everything2 was the first website that happened at, if you need historical records and such. What I mean is, if you are a fucking weirdo who writes down stuff compulsively and masturbates while reading it in the bathroom later on. Come on. Get a life.
I don't know if you wear pants or not, but I was wearing pants one day, having come home early from working third shift, when I started having a lot of problems with my computer. I was going through hard times which included being quite broke and just scraping by while living with this weird character with a bushy moustache and black wavy hair kind of puffed up, who was really into women's feet. He kept a large library of foot fetish porn videos on a shelf in his living room. He was proud of this collection. The guy was seriously a Borat knockoff. "You like to watch one? This one is very nice."
The computer was eight years old. It was having issues anyway. And now it was seriously on the verge of a merciful but slow death.
Now, let us go back to my often being promoted to High Priest of thy Holy Website for a moment. One of the things you do as as some kind of pseudo-authority figure on these websites is to keep and eye on curious looking or acting folks signed into the site. And I've often run into this situation where said authority figures become obsessed with lurkers. By this, I mean people who are signed into the website but aren't doing anything on it.
On everything2, this would consist of them not posting any writeups and never saying anything in the cat box. They get wondering, "What is this fellow here up to?" He's in the Other Users list quite often, but doesn't say anything. They might have been welcomed when they first appeared, as was sometimes done here, but likely by other pseudo-authority figures since it says they have been a member for a long enough time that it would be weird to welcome them at this point.
So, the person has been on the site for months. They have never posted a writeup. They've never spoken in the catbox. In other places it might be, "They're not posting in the forums or commenting on anything."
There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes people just like to look around. And some get jumpy if they get a message from a pseudo-authority figure. There is that panic impulse. They run away. Or they delete the message and say to themself, "Just pretend it never happened... just pretend it never happened..." I know how it goes. You are what you are, and sometimes life is fast and frightening. Highly introverted people who get scared surfing the net because "What if this website tries saying shit to me! What the holy fuck! Run away!" are people just like me and the guy that lives in your house with you.
It happens. It really does. A lot.
Let us go back to that time where I was wearing pants.
So, as I am wearing said pants, I am talking in the catbox about my computer issues. I'm asking people who know technical stuff better than I do if they can help. I have private messages going with a couple helpful folks, but I'm also talking to people openly in the catbox.
I get a private message. It is from this person who had been a lurker for quite some time. People would message her and she would just say, "Thanks. I'm just looking around." Basically a thanks, no thanks shut down. The pseudo-authority figures were having conspiracy level thoughts. There was chatter about this person amongst the content editors. What are they up to? This is the beginning of some kind of attack, but WHAT KIND? Do we need to contact boss man? Is this a red alert situation? What should we DO? This shit happens all the time in chatter amongst pseudo-authority figures on websites. They get all kinds of crazy because of how the expectations of them are generally very vague. So they are never sure if they are doing enough or doing too little. They could be failing. Awful people teach other awful people that life is all about winning. They panic. They sign out of the website and turn off their computers and go into the fetal position in the corner of their bedroom in the dark. And these motherfuckers are CRYING. What they need is structure and they are not getting it.
The private message says, "Where do you want me to send the computer?"
I am thinking this is some kind of sales pitch. I am thinking, this person is hanging around and soliciting. This is an issue.
What I do is send back a polite laugh. "Thanks. I'm broke right now and I can't afford to buy a computer. And you can't be doing that on this site..."
"No, I want to send it to you. No charge. All I need is an address to send it to."
Okay, now I see what her game is. She's mining me for personal information. I call her on it.
"You don't have to give me your home address. I can send it wherever you can get it."
I am living with the Borat knockoff, and wearing pants (not sure if I mentioned that or not), and he's pretty crazy about inviting everyone he meets in a bar to his house so he can cook them one of his "special hamburgers." These aren't special at all. Basically ground beef with a shitload of salt in it fried in an unclean pan for much too long on one side.
I give her the address and my name and tell her, "I'm not giving you anything more."
She keeps trying to convince me that she is serious. This is like some Nigerian prince type stuff. Random person on the Internet wants to send you a free computer. Something is fucking hinky with this shit.
Then we take a left turn up ahead.
She tells me that she has been on the site to read my writeups. She tells me about how she utilized some of my writings in her own life. It was pretty intense. She was like a Dead Guy Superfan.
I tell her that I'm very flattered and moved by what she's told me, but that she doesn't need to go out and buy me a computer because mine is going Chernobyl on me.
"Sweetie, I run a computer warehouse. I sell hundreds of units every day. This isn't going to cost me shit. What brand do you prefer and I'll see if I can match the specs you need if you want to give me that."
I did not push it. What I told her was to send me one that met my needs, and descibed the things that I use my computer for and so forth. "As long as I can do all this, I'm perfectly fine. Oh, and I don't want it to be obsolete in a year or two. I'm just starting to get back on my feet after a really rough patch."
"All you need to do for me is promise you'll keeping writing."
So, this was who the lurker was that they wanted to drag into an interrogation room to be berated by Elliot Stabler? This was the pervert looking for pictures of children on a website without any pictures? This was the spammer? This was the leader of an oncoming attack by renegade cossacks?
I always tell people when I somehow get promoted to pseudo-authority figure positions on websites, "Leave them alone. They ain't hurting anything. If they are privately bothering people, someone is going to complain to us."
Let the lurker lurk. Bring peace on earth. Goodwill towards humankind. Be sure to tip your waitresses and bartenders on the way out.
Give everything you can to everyone you know.