Sunday December 04, 2022

What is “Lurking” online?

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.comOn the internet, “lurking” isn’t as ominous as it sounds. What does “lurking” mean online? Here are some reasons why it isn’t as scary as you think. Lurking is basically passive observation of a public discussion. People who do this online are often called “lurkers”. While the word itself has negative connotations in English, it isn’t always a bad thing. This could be a sign that someone isn’t ready yet to participate in a forum and prefers to browse other people’s posts. This was made more apparent when message boards started to implement live active user lists and “Currently viewing” features on each forum topic. Urban Dictionary’s first definition of “lurker”, which dates back to 2003, states that “someone who follows the forum but does not post”; however, the term has gained popularity in other contexts. A lurker is someone who doesn’t use group chats but reads all of the messages. Similarly, someone who looks at many Instagram stories but never posts could be a lurker.RELATED: How to Stop Specific People Seeing Your Instagram StoryLong-Time, First-TimeESB Professional/Shutterstock.comWhile many users in a community only lurk, sometimes, a lurker turns into a poster. Licencing is a common practice among lurkers who post for the first time. They identify themselves as a lurker and begin the post with “long-time lurker”, “first-time poster” or something similar. This is done as an “introduction” to the bigger group and possibly a request not to be that harsh or critical of the post’s content.Advertisement
This phrase is a variation of a saying that was used in talk radio where listeners call in with problems, stories, or points to discuss. As an introduction, callers often say “long-time listener and first-time caller”. This is a way to signal to the host that they are fans of the show and to get rid of any jitters. This same catchphrase has been adopted into other mediums and groups as well, with variations like “long-time fan,” “long-time viewer,” and now, “long-time lurker.”Lurking AroundVladimka production/Shutterstock.comHowever, the term lurking doesn’t only apply to just online communities anymore. It can be used to describe anyone who is in an online space but doesn’t speak up. You could say that your coworker is lurking if they are actively browsing the company’s Slack channel, but not speaking up. Discord, Microsoft Teams or other mass-communication apps can be used in the same way. This is especially true for chats that have read receipts or a “seen counter”. If you are reading messages from your friends in a messaging app and don’t respond to them, you might be viewed as a “lurker” on a website without a participation component. You might be a lurker if you browse an online store but don’t buy anything. You might consider yourself a lurker if you spend hours browsing social media but don’t post or message anything. A lurker might prefer reading to posting. It takes a lot more effort to join discussions and be an active member, while lurking is just another type of content consumption.Advertisement

Another reason is that newcomers and novices may be treated differently in the community. If a lurker is uncomfortable participating in the conversation, they might need to spend more time getting used to the environment before posting. They might not have anything original to post. You might also see a “First-time poster” on Reddit posts. Be kind to them. Most people are just lurkers on most websites. You don’t have to be ashamed of lurking. Keep lurking!

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