Ed. note: DBB's comment section may seem crowded at times, but truth be told only a small percentage of readers actually take the plunge and join the conversation. I enjoyed this first-hand account from a former lurker, and encourage anyone else watching from afar to join the fun. -- MW
A long summer coupled with internship-induced free time has finally spurred me to emerge from the shadows of lurking and, at long last, join in the glorious revelry of DBB. The FanPost may be an entirely inappropriate mode to introduce oneself with (and if that’s the case, let the powers that be feel free to delete this post), but I figured I’d do just that and share a thought or two on the mindset of an erstwhile lurker.
Lurking here, as elsewhere, reminds me a bit of following along with the lovable and dysfunctional cast of your favorite TV show.
Lacking any shared spheres of personal experience or interaction, the relationships you have with these characters (online, on TV, etc.) will always remain inherently impersonal. In a sense, these characters exist only insofar as you play witness to. As I lay awake in bed, I do not lose sleep over Don Draper’s latest affair – he ceases to exist outside of the medium in which I observe him. And while blogs are different in the sense that those who comment on them are, in fact, real people, a looming impersonality between lurkers and members nonetheless remains.
You sit back as a lurker and watch arguments upon debates upon fights unfold between members of DBB. You pick sides, render judgment, and play favorites as you might in real life. Only this time, your opinion remains silent. This time, you play the voyeur, letting your scopophiliac tendencies take hold as you watch from afar. You smile when a troll gets crushed, frown when things get out of hand, and mind-rec every well placed meme you see across the comments. And, sooner or later, you are compelled by whatever reason to join the foray. I’m not positive when or why this desire strikes, but I have an idea or two.
We are a sociable people, and much of the human condition is about forging connections with others. Consciously or not, shared spheres of experience are how we define our relationships with others. So perhaps this desire strikes as a result of observing others seek out and form these exact connections, and perhaps it strikes out of curiosity. You’ve always wanted to hang out with Draper and Roger Sterling haven’t you? And it’s not necessarily because you envy their glamorous lifestyle (at least I don’t think), for the same desire could be transferred to, say, the employees of Dunder Mifflin.
From the perspective of an outsider, there is an inherent curiosity as to how you would fit in with the very characters you observe. I've always wanted to know how I would get along with my favorite TV characters, musicians, etc., and the situation here is no different (apart from the whole fame, money, and good looks thing). We desire to make these "characters" human, and to engage them further. Most of the time, this is impossible; the internet, however, is a democratizing force. It is the one medium that invites you to engage with those who you have watched interact from afar.
And while the internet is an often cold place, it is the humanity (along with humor, intelligence, general insight) of DBB and blogs like it that compel long(ish)-time lurkers like myself to sign up in numbers.
So, yeah. I could put it this way: I want to come here and talk hoops and shoot the shit when I’m bored, but there’s more to it than just that (plus, isn’t it more fun to try and analyze it all?). And it’s weird and paradoxical because we come to make conversation and form connections in one of the least personal ways I can imagine, but that’s part of the beauty of it all. It seems to me that the goal of communities like DBB, apart from talking Pistons ball, is to outlast the ephemera of the internet, and this seems to have been admirably accomplished here.
Copious usage of parentheses notwithstanding, I hope you guys could stomach this little tangent, and I’m glad to have finally joined the ranks. Let’s get human.