According to Urban Dictionary the definition of a social leech is, "A person who tries to "fit in" with a clique/group that they do not belong in. They cling unto you and won't go away easily, hence the name leech. A social leech follows the clique/group wherever they go, even if they don't pay any attention to him/her and give hints for the leech to leave."
I'm pretty sure that we all know or have known a social leech. They're that person at school or at work that wants to hang out with you and your friends despite the fact that they are not welcome and do not fit in. The problem is that you can't help but feel sorry for the leech. They lack many important social skills and often don't realise when they're being inappropriate or rude. They don't understand that their behaviour is often frowned upon and an embarrassment. You don't want to hurt their feelings...but you also don't want to hang out with them.
Therein lies the problem - social leeches don't mean to be social leeches and this, added with the fact that they are usually highly emotional, means that it is almost impossible for you to tell them to take a hike without them bursting into tears and you feeling like a complete bastard.
So how do you know if you have a social leech in your midst? Well, this simple scenario should help. First of all you need to take an emotional situation where only close friends who you trust are around you. In my example I will use my imaginary friend Sam, who has just been dumped by his cruel girlfriend.
The social leech, seeing your gathering and wanting to be included, will approach. They will ignore any tears (tears and emotion will only encourage them!) and any attempts you make to be left alone will be ignored. Try to leave and they will follow you. They will be driven by a need to feel important, to be included and curiosity.
Once they hear of your problem the social leech will immediately try to feel like 'one of you' by recounting their own stories about similar situations - ignoring any social conventions that indicate that the best course of action is to mind their own business. They will usually be loud and obnoxious and will try to draw attention to themselves. Their aim is to be seen as an 'expert' and to feel important.
It's normally at this stage that the group of friends will try to retreat. This can be a mistake however! Especially if you happen to mention any plans your group has to meet up after work/school. The leech, wanting to be one of you, will invite themselves along. They will ignore all hints and body language that they are not welcome.
Now, here comes the problem. Because you feel sorry for the leech and you don't want to be seen a nasty horrible person who makes them cry, you won't outright tell the leech that they aren't welcome. Instead you'll lie. They'll be innocent white lies but lies all the same...and the leech will have an answer for all of them. You see, the leech knows you are going out and they *want* to come. Unless you outright tell them to go away, they'll make sure they are coming with you.
Eventually the problem will escalate. After a few months under the constant fear of the leech forcing their company on you and ruining parties and outings with their embarrassing and drunken behaviour, you will begin to talk in an elaborate code that relates to school or work.
The code is used whenever the leech is in earshot or may potentially lurking about.
Of course, all the lies and the codes will eventually get too much for you and eventually avoiding the social leech at all costs will become your only salvation. Driven by fear and hunted by a friendship that you do not want you will spend your days curled in a corner or sprinting through the halls of your workplace like a frightened rabbit.
Beware the social leech my friends! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
(NB - I will go into detail about social limpets in my next entry!)