Forum Voyeurism

by bxrtley

When I become unsure, timid or lost in thoughts instead of putting pen to paper, look to others for inspiration. But the looking turns into stalking. And I get a twisted pleasure out of checking other’s progress or even my own forum stats (likes, badges, replies) as I seek to recreate the feeling of acceptance.

Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a forum voyeur.

Definitions

It’s not what you think. Who am I kidding. It is exactly what you think. But let’s look at some definitions and then place it all into context.

Forum:

  1. A place, meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.
  2. A message board
  3. A public square or marketplace (I like this one).

Voyeur:

  1. A person who gains sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.
  2. A person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others.

The Context

I enjoy a great public square. A marketplace to exchange thoughts, values and even to barter services if the opportunity arises. But when I get in that “writer’s funk”, I stop exchanging and I just watch. I gratify in others who become socially and psychologically naked (vulnerable) in the public square, as they pour out their successes, failures, highs and lows.

And then I compare. I look back at my past posts that may have generated high engagement and might wonder how can I repeat that phenomenon, or (more often than not) I reminisce instead of looking to share that next “great idea” with the community. I sit on my puny little laurels.

It doesn’t take Facebook to engage in this sort of activity. All it takes is group of people or a person you’re interested in. Then you find yourself now longer sharing, but just watching. Then stalking. Then wishing. Then pining—hoping for similar success or attention. And then congrats—you’ve earned the voyeur forum badge.

How I Stop My Voyeurism

One thing is the same between the social and sexual versions of voyeurism: Intimacy. I’ve earned both badges (along with sobriety tokens), so it’s a bit easier to assess the connections between them. Watching porn* is much easier than being in a relationship. Watching posts is just as easy than being in the conversation. Because to jump into either requires you to be vulnerable.

It’s a risk. Your feelings may get hurt, people may not like what you have to say, you might be deemed weird or off-topic. But watching is the safe route. Safe in a cowardly way. It’s cheap. You don’t have to invest. John Eldridge does a great job expressing this in Wild at Heart. So, how to cut down on being a forum Peeping Tom?

Acknowledge it. When I find myself switching from exchanging to hoarding ideas and info (and there’s always a moment when you become aware of this), I acknowledge it for what it is. Voyeurism. Not research, not analysis—voyeurism. Peeping posts. Profile stalker. You get the point. It takes honesty. Be honest with yourself.

Stop it. I quit reading all the posts. I stop double, triple, and quadruple-checking my social status (likes, badges, replies). I close the myriad of open tabs, if I must. I have to physically look away, shut it down and do the next step.

Replace it. I have to create something in the place of all the consuming I’ve done. This goes for an addict of any sort. If you just stop with no proactive solution to replace the destructive habit, you end up worse off than you were before. So I force myself to make something that will be shared in the community I was “voyeuring.” I have to invest. I have to be vulnerable. I have to accept the scrutiny with the praise—or the silence with the multiple pings and up-votes.

Return it. I have to respond to others’ vulnerability, thoughts and ideas. Pay it forward, essentially.

*A note on Pornography

By the way, when I say porn, I also include womanizing, philandering and emotional harlotry (investing just enough emotion to get a desired result out of a relationship and then retreating, while still being able to maintain a platonic friendship afterwards; this way you could always come and go as the “good guy”—it’s a dark art, and I was once the Picasso of that shit).

Remove the image of the nerd sitting in front of a laptop in the dark behind a locked door with their face glowing next to a bottle of Jergens. It’s also the charming, ultra-sociable, but manipulative person who puts in just enough “work” to get whatever they want out of the relationship—and it’s not always sex. But it is always intimacy.

Wrap Up

So as we now face a new year of choosing between exchanging vs. stalking, investing vs. pirating relationships and ideas, let’s do our best to give more than we take. And to appropriately become transparent in the communities that matter to us.

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