For the first time in the history of EVER we have unfettered access to the minutiae of everyone’s lives thanks to social media. We can now see pretty much EVERYTHING that our friends, competitors, enemies, and strangers are doing - instantly and in great fucking detail - and while this used to be a FUN thing, somewhere along the way it became the opposite. I’m guessing the downward turn started when Facebook came into play, Facebook being THE website that one day (hopefully soon) will be looked upon as the beginnings of all that is poisonous and evil online: the bag of burning dog shit that started it all.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
I am old enough to remember when there was NO social media, and what a great time that was… back when nobody ever took any pictures unless they were on holiday, and even then it had to be a fucking special one - like your grandparent’s 50th in Malta or something. Thanks to shitty technology my truly awful teenage years where I looked like a sweaty potato will never fully come to light as there aren’t very many pictures of it, thank god.
When social media first started it was fun, it allowed you to reach out to strangers (usually on Myspace) and befriend them (virtually or IRL) because you liked the cut of their jib (or the cut of their asymmetric fringe)… all of which seems like a million years ago now as gaining new friends online is SO not fun anymore, it’s either addictive or depressing, and a whole different ball game…
BIRTH OF A LURKER
If you have an addictive or obsessive personality (like me) then having too much access to others is not good. Not good at all. I could sit on my phone all day looking at what my first crush from primary school had for his dinner or what my cousin’s mate’s hairdresser’s drug dealer is up to now. We call this behaviour lurking, and I, my friends, am a TOP lurker. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I am really good at it. I do it so I am virtually traceless. I never follow anyone or mistakenly leave a like or even let anyone know that they have been lurked on. I’m like a creepy shadow… a fart in the wind.
Via my various lurks I have found out that 90% of the people I fancied at school are bald and/or EDL now. Some of them are dead, which makes it harder for me to lurk them… but not impossible. After all, the internet never forgets. One of my favourite pastimes is lurking on the social media profiles of people who recently died. Morbid, I know, but I find it really fascinating how the last post Bobby from Cov left behind was a picture of his dog and a half-eaten Cornish pasty.
I’ve only recently realised the extent of my lurker behaviour because a lot of it is unconscious habit - something I did without even thinking about it. It makes sense that I lurk a lot as I have always preferred to casually consume. I have social anxiety which funnily enough, translates to social media also. I just like passively looking at stuff while setting anything of my own that is remotely personal to private so that no-one else can do the same. I’m so private that I get eeked out by people seeing my Spotify playlist as I feel like seeing what music someone is listening to is like seeing inside their brain.
TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW
I often compare lurking to self harm, because it is. It’s a waste of time and every time you do it, it chips away at your mental health. The more I lurk, the unhappier I get. Sometimes I wish I could just throw my smartphone out the fucking window, but I need it for my job.
And there’s the rub.
Sensing I was having a bit of an existential crisis, my husband was like “why don’t you make a lurk log? Just in the notes of your phone? Do it for a month and then you can see for yourself how bad it is and maybe notice any patterns...”
It sounded like a good idea, so I gave it a go. I made an emoji key at the top for people I noticed myself lurking on, and then each day I log what time I lurk, who, where, why, and for how long... like this:
My first thoughts looking back on it after a week were:
”Fuck, this thing is BRUTAL.“
“I am SUCH a dirty little lurker it’s tragic.“
“I lurk the STRANGEST people!! FFS.”
Basically it turns out that ANYONE who has crossed my life path at some point (school teachers, childminders, worst enemies) I will most likely lurk at some point… obviously some more than others. However by making this lurk log I started to notice patterns and different types of reasons behind the lurk.
They are (from worst TOP LURKER tier to best and most wholesome):
The SELF HARM LURK - “I know I shouldn’t, but…”
This is the WORST kind of lurk and is like looking at a car crash in that you know you shouldn’t do it because you will see something horrible, but you do it anyway. This kind of lurk is BAD because it HURTS. Case in point: when you lurk on recent exes to cry wank about their new life, or search online to seek out criticism. Just don’t do it!
The SADNESS LURK - “OMG I miss themmmm”
Sadness lurks are generally saved for people who have died or maybe people who are still alive but you miss having them in your life. They can be self-harm depending on the circumstances, so it’s best to keep these kinds of lurks in check.
The SCHADENFREUDE LURK - “hahaha… what a prick”
The schadenfreude lurk is the cruelest type of lurk, and the lurk that you do to feel better about yourself at someone else’s expense. As in “my life may be shit - but at least it’s not THAT shit”. Most of the time schadenfreude lurks are on enemies, horrible exes, or people that you don’t like. People who you would never EVER want to speak to in real life, but who you like laughing in secret at. Shh… it’s okay, we won’t tell anyone…
The ANXIETY LURK - “are they still my friend?”
Anxiety lurks are to reassure yourself that your friend is okay and they haven’t fallen out with you. They are the grown up equivalent of going up to someone in the playground and asking if they are your best friend still, but instead you obsessively check that they have posted and have been online today and they are okay and not in a mood with you and are therefore still your friend. Me and Von do this lurk to each other ALL THE TIME. All the time. Every day, probably.
The CONCERN LURK - “are they okay?”
We all have that one friend who is always on the brink of doing something awful, who we check in with online mostly out of concern, or to look for signs that they are still alive and haven’t done something awful. This kind of lurk shows you have a good heart but don’t do it to your own detriment!
The NOSTALGIA LURK - “Oh my days… I remember him/her/that!”
This covers basically anyone you lurk on from school and EVERYONE you lurk on via Facebook. No exceptions. This is a low level lurk because EVERYONE does it.
The HAPPY LURK - “This brings me joy!”
The BEST kind of lurks are ones that make you happy and bring you joy. For me, my happy place is lurking on my husband and going back through all of our pictures together and of our family. Awwww!
You never know - you might find more!
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP BEING A DIRTY LURKER
We all know that social media is unhealthy, like junk food for our brains, so we need to be training ourselves to have healthier social media habits, and consume it in a more responsible way - ESPECIALLY if social media is a part of our job. At Bits Out we teach that there is no sense in being a lurker on socials - as we want to be engaged with people online, not passively disengaged.
To help become more healthy and ENGAGED online you can do the following:
Recognise you have a problem
Lurking is something that we ALL unconsciously do, but some of us have more of a problem with it than others. If lurking on people is having a negative impact on your mental health then it is time to confront it and do something about it!
Make a LURK LOG
If you find yourself obsessively lurking then making a Lurk Log REALLY helps you identify patterns (if that’s your thing) and the reasons behind why you do it. It can even help you stop lurking completely... I hope.
Find your HAPPY LURKS
Remember social media is NOT REAL LIFE
What people share (or don’t share) on social media is curated and totally not real. People will always post their best (or worst) selves online.
Talk to people instead
If you find yourself with the compulsion to lurk, why not speak to that person instead? Obviously this only really applies to anxiety lurks and below (NOT Self Harm, Sadness, or Schadenfreude) but oftentimes picking up your phone to call or message someone is a million times better than passively lurking them online.
Love you guys! Lets stop being creepy together!