No, I’m not talking about intentionally stalking someone you like – although it can include that – I’m talking about well-meaning individuals accidentally making themselves look… creepy. It’s not like they are intentionally trying to be threatening, it’s that they go about entering a person’s internet societal bubble so-to-speak in an unusual manner. They might do this for various reasons – perhaps they are too impatient to make contact over an extended period of time or perhaps they are just trying to draw attention to themselves. Whatever their reason, they just don’t rub off well. Salesmen can’t get away with it either, but at least salesmen who we come into contact with physically are in a zone where such activity is more or less anticipated and thus it doesn’t scare us away as easily.
But for those of us who don’t understand – or forget – that we can be creepy on the internet without trying, here’s a list of ways in which even a well-meaning individual can generate an aura of awkwardness and make the recipient of a message at least slightly more hesitant to being open to you.
- Send several brief, meaningless messages in a short period of time.
It’s hard to explain this one. Basically, think about your messages twice before you send it. If you can erase everything you’ve written and not feel like you’ve lost a treasure or an opportunity (because you can write something better), chances are the message would be received the same way.
- Reply to everything a person says.
There is such a thing as a coincidental reply and I stalker-ish reply. Just because you like what someone says does not mean you should quote them all the time and tell the world you think what they said were great ideas. At the very least, add something insightful to what they are saying. Or if you are lazy, it’s easy enough to casually mention that.
Now, if we’re talking about a forum, especially a small one, it’s fine to mention you agree with a person multiple times, but on the safe side, no more than three or four.
- Ask for immediate friendship.
This is really creepy. Different people take this is different ways. Social butterflies won’t mind this but you need to accompany it with a legitimate reason why you want their friendship. “I’m lonely” and “I like your avatar” are not legitimate reasons, although adding a bit more backup to that might bump up the chance of acceptance from not-a-prayer to slim-but-possible.
- Mention to a person obscure piece info about them.
This is the most awkward, depending of course on the quantity of information you present and how infrequently they actually share that information. Using a person’s first name or nickname(s) can be awkward if they have to be identified via a third party an the individual doesn’t share that information often (wherever you happen to contact them by).
While I can’t speak for everyone, I’d say that in part, the thought process behind these awkward actions is simply this: That you think, “If this person wants to know I’m sincere, then they need to see I’ve taken the time to learn about them.” It sounds nice in theory, but this only works in person, and even in person it can be thought of as weird. The reality is, unless you are connected by mutual friends, it is unlikely that you should know much about that person. Therefore, they expect you to know just that: very little.
In my experience, the person being contacted generally does not mention that they have been awkwardly approached. The usual technique is simply ignoring the other party. This can be somewhat disturbing to the one making contact because they can’t be sure if the other person actually noticed them and, if they did, the other person now has something to wave in public for all to see if they so chose to embarrass the person contacting them.
In conclusion then, try to avoid embarrassing encounters. If you happen to think what you are doing seems silly, maybe you should think twice about it. If you do decide to continue, pick your words carefully, or you may end up being considered spam.
But for those who don’t care…
Here’s where you can have fun. Some of the advice I gave above won’t prevent people from thinking you’re creepy, and sometimes people just don’t care. But if you’re really trying to make yourself look like an oddball without being a stalker, there’s a few more tips you can look at…
- Make unusual requests.
Something along the lines of “Hey, user xmanguy keeps contradicting me. Tell that guy to sh*t*p for me will ya.” … and end the message there. The recipient will no doubt be thinking, “Why would they ask me to do that for them?” Depending on how you formulate your message, you should expect to get a reply.
- Send tons of links.
Overkill. Unless the person has some mental disorder or is forgetful, most people on the internet can find their way around on the internet. You don’t need to send five links to help a person get back to a discussion board, much less send a link to the FAQ section to help with navigation, but why not? After all, it’s unlikely that doing so will bother that person (although it will make them slightly confused and, if you aren’t careful, you may insult their intelligence – depending on the types of links you send). As long as you don’t paste unrelated links – and so make yourself out to be a troll – and don’t paste an exorbitant number of links (for PMs, 6+ starts to look trollish), you should be okay. If you do it frequently enough, people will either start to think you are a troll (based on how well you execute this technique) or you will get what you want – people will think you’re just weird.
The most important aspect really is just bending the internet social bubble without popping it. Take advantage of what is acceptable but unusual.
I probably shouldn’t be offering this advice… *looks up* …
Thing is, there isn’t as big incentive for being weird or creepy on the internet as you might think. Since many people tend to ignore oddballs, you can’t usually elicit an amusing reaction (well, maybe you enjoy those few overly serious individuals who take the time to reprimand you for not conforming to their perfect vision of society).
In conclusion, since I can’t possibly cover all of the ways of being odd over the internet (or at least not in a single night), I may update this post in the future. You’re welcome to chip in (no evenballs, please /horrid-joke).
For those of you who don’t like oddballs – you now know some techniques that might be carried out by people trying to be oddballs. The problem now – as it was before – is you can’t always tell when someone has good intentions, is being a stalker, or is just being annoying. Being accusative won’t help you, and it may even make you look like an oddball!
I, of course, am not going to tell you my techniques and observations for how to determine whether a person’s message is innocent or not, probably because I find it easier for the person on the receiving end to identify whether the message has good intentions than it is for the sender to fake it. There are exceptions – some people have mastered being deceptive on the internet – which warrants distrust (although I’d say no more than in physical relationships).
And now I’ve gone on blabbering. Terribly sorry. That’s the end of this installment.