My dad picked up a funny habit after watching the movie Men in Black. When we went to public places together, he would always point out the people he thought might be aliens. “What about that one?” he’d ask. “Not quite right, don’t you think?”

We’ve always been people watchers, my dad and I. The irony is that I usually consider myself to be the alien. It’s always been that way. I’m fascinated by human nature and all the twists and turns that make people do things the way they do. I think it’s part of being a writer, or it somehow feeds into that writing part of me. If I were part of an alien race, I would be the one pretending to be human in order to observe and collect as much information as possible.

It can be difficult for an introvert like myself to be in these public places often. Which is why I have a favorite form of people watching: Public forums.

I love forums. I have been forum-hopping for years. Forums are fascinating places. They bring together thousands of people with a common interest: pregancy and childbirth, hobbies and interests, education, diseases, technology. Think of a topic, and there’s probably a forum somewhere with people talking about it. But it doesn’t end there. Find a forum big enough and active enough, and you’ll suddenly have a diverse group of people with fascinating opinions on just about every controversial topic there is. Religion? They’re on it. Just be quick – those threads get locked fast. Politics? Check. Mothers-in-law? Of course. Put together a few strong minds, some ill-formed opinions, sprinkle in a dose of sarcasm, and you have a recipe for explosive people-watching that is unmatched in history.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m rationalizing my forum addiction as a form of story research. I have been addicted to forums for all these years, spending hours pouring over ridiculous threads that really have no bearing on my life (the woman who feared her husband had died on a fishing trip when he had really lied about the trip, the boy who was kicked out of school because of his parents’ religious beliefs, the disastrous Chuck E. Cheese trip that ruined a friendship). While I have met some of my best friends in forums, these are strangers for the most part. And it’s not just their stories that are so fascinating. It’s also the opinions of others who chime in to tell them that everything they do is Right On or everything is Absolutely Wrong. I love it. Please keep posting your life’s troubles in forums, people! It allows this introvert to go people watching in the comfort of my own home.

And lest you think I’m just a lurker, I believe in forum participation. I’m usually the one popping the popcorn. đŸ˜‰