Have you heard of a lurker? Do you know one? Are you one?
“In Internet culture, a lurker is typically a member of an online community who observes, but does not actively participate.”
Or, like me, are you an occasional lurker?
I lurk when I don’t have anything to contribute or when a forum is highly technical and I am just seeking information. Sometimes, more often than not, I’m only lurking to get the feel of a place before I post.
A couple of months ago I read an article encouraging people to stand up and be counted. To get those quiet lurkers out of the cupboard. But why? If they want to be there, shouldn’t they stay?
The answer is, I think, yes and no. If people are lurking in a strong community and are just looking for a ‘free ride’ it seems a shame that they might not contribute. Occasionally though, it just isn’t appropriate.
For some, being involved online is like stepping out for the world to view you, thoughts and all. Once it is done, it can’t be undone. The delete key in an online environment is never really what it seems. And even where it is, there’s always the Wayback Machine.
There can be any amount of reasons for someone to lurk. To sign up, to stay tuned in, but to stay silent. ‘Real’ life might just have gotten to a place where a little silence is golden.
Sometimes, in our eagerness to make people feel included that same enthusiasm could be making a private, shy, or just plain exhausted person feel like leaving.
There’s no simple answer to this. It isn’t really a question. Not everything we say needs to be either a question or an answer. Perhaps it is just one more reminder that we are, as ever, a lot more complicated than it first appears.
One online glove does not fit all.