What is creepiness?

What is creepiness?

We recognize it when we see it (in others, at any rate; creepy people don’t seem to recognize it in themselves, and that ties in with other aspects of creepiness), but it’s less easy to describe quite what it is.

In this essay, I’ll be describing what I see as creepiness; others may have different definitions, which I’d be interested to hear about. The particular type, or aspect, of creepiness I’m writing about overlaps with neediness, or can be a reaction to need (or to loneliness, or depression).

Creepy people are those who perceive that others see them as less desirable than others, and try to force situations to be such that they can see others’ reactions as affirming them as desirable. There’s an inherent falseness to it, because at some level they have perceived that people don’t like them, and they’re trying to trick people into doing things that make it look like they like them, and are then pushing themselves to believe the lie they have rigged.

There’s something horrible about having someone be creepy towards you, but it’s difficult to pin down what this is. Sometimes I have to remind myself of Jesus’ saying that uncleanness cannot come into someone from outside (Mark 7:15), as a way to cut myself off from feeling contaminated (which I know is an ungenerous response to human neeed).

Another aspect to creepiness is trying to treat effect (e.g. chatting with someone) as coming from the nominal cause (wanting to chat).

Creepy people often show an unconfident or forced approach to the people they’re trying to get something out of, which makes those people avoid them. [Link to “sexual harassment and you” video on youtube]

Often it seems that when someone is looking for company, others avoid them.

I think the reason behind this is that people don’t like being sought to fulfil a role in someone’s life. When someone is deliberately looking for company (rather than taking what company they naturally get), they are looking for someone to perform some function or service towards them. This is often referred to as objectification; I don’t like this term, as the “object” is being used specifically because “it” is a human; the important point is that he or she is being used. I prefer a term such as “`being used to provide personal contact as a service”, but I’m pretty sure that it’s the same thing that some, particularly feminists, refer to as objectification.

This is part of a wider group of false behaviours: in general, people trying to adjust their relative status as seen by those those around them: clothing and image obsession, ridiculous exaggerations of masculinity or femininity, status symbols. Presumably they work on some people, but to others, the status looks silly and the neediness is apparent.

Although I’m writing negatively about creepy people, I’m aware it would be charitable to show them some charity, but the problem with this is that it’s likely to be seized as what they wanted, rather than what you offered.

Fortunately, human development is possible, and some people grow out of these behaviours; it can be just a phase before certain realizations occur. (I certainly went through a lonely and needy stage myself, and I guess I may well have come across as creepy to some at the time.) Unfortunately, not all do.


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