Misfit Monday: Why We Lurk

My daughter spends a lot of time on the Internet. In fact, it’s one of her favorite ways to relax and take a break between homework assignments and school projects. Her favorite place online is Tumblr, and she follows many bloggers there. She also hangs out in the Loli fashion community, is a devoted fan of Homestuck, and keeps up on Facebook, where she occasionally posts a status update or shares a funny picture.

Yet for all the time she spends on the Loli forums and on Tumblr, she never comments. Ever.

Anyone who runs a blog or other online community knows that out of the people who visit a site, only a fraction leave a comment. Talking with my daughter solidified why.


Yep, pure and simple fear. Of saying something stupid. Of inadvertently offending someone. Of Liking something you might honestly like, but don’t want associated with your online presence, like the political posts that are all that is on Facebook lately, it seems. Sometimes it’s the simple worry that “I don’t have anything to contribute to this conversation,” so we don’t comment, out of fear that someone will call us out for that. (And in some less-friendly venues, they will.) It’s sort of like a reverse social anxiety – instead of being afraid to go out lest someone make fun of us to our face, we’re afraid of looking stupid while we’re sitting alone in our own homes.

I totally get this. Because you see, I used to be a lurker. For all of the above reasons. And yes, I’ve posted stuff online that didn’t come out right – although hopefully that hasn’t happened in a long time. Β Then I read Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone and took her class, where she convinced authors of the need to be accessible to readers by having good content online… and the need to connect with each other. And you know what? It’s fun! And so far, I don’t think I’ve made too much an idiot of myself.

That’s not to say it’s been easy. Β The urge to just lurk is a temptation I still fight daily.Β I’m not an outgoing person offline – I’m much more likely to hang on the fringe of a group and just listen. Online, I’m pretty much the same. So it’s taken effort, and is a work in progress.

What about you? Are you a reformed lurker, or has participating always come easily to you? What are some of the things you’ve done to make it easier to get out there and participate in conversation? Have you ever said something stupid online? If you lurk for some other reason, what is it?

And to all you lurkers, this is an invitation to pop in- no need to worry about if you’re “contributing” to the conversation – just say hi, if you want. As long as what you post isn’t rude, disrespectful or spammy, I’ll approve it. Whether you’re a lurker or not, I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

24 Responses to \

  1. I’m not a reformed lurker, I AM a lurker. Especially if I see someone has oodles of comments already. Most of the time, I dont know what to add that hasn’t been said already, so I don’t bother. And there is the embarrassment part, too. I’ve been known to “open mouth, insert foot” too many times to count!

  2. Reformed lurker, mostly. I still have to push past the urge to not comment. A couple of years ago it was the opposite. Even when I really wanted to say something I wouldn’t. It was definitely fear!

  3. I’m a somewhat reformed lurker. I, too, will often pass on commenting if there are lots of comments already. And sometimes I have a complex reaction to a post and it’s just too much effort to sort it out into a cohesive paragraph. But I’m doing much better at making one-line/one-idea comments, and I try not to worry that I’ll seem trite. Like now.

    BTW, I totally agree with the fear of “liking” something political. If that’s all that shows up on my Facebook wall, I don’t have the chance to explain that I like this part but not that part. And if I want to explain, I run into the same problems as above.

  4. I see a trend here. I, too, am a reformed lurker. I could easily fall back into that pattern and often do on FB and on Twitter. Fear can be crippling. But I often think of (okay, don’t laugh) of Sam Witwicky when he said, “Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?” I say, “Hell, yeah!” So here I am. And here you are. πŸ˜‰ We’re conquering our fear.

  5. No, I’ve never been a lurker. I know I say stupid things but now I don’t fret about it (too much). Sometimes I’m so tired, I have a hard time following the post, so it’s hard to leave a comment, but usually I try to. My problem is time. Just not enough time in the day to read all the posts I’d like to and leave a comment. And being a slow reader doesn’t help! I also invite lurkers to leave a comment, even if it’s just, “Hello weirdo!”

  6. still a lurker… I read nearly every blog that shows up in my email, but I rarely comment. As a blogger who gets very few comments, I feel bad about this, but…. Oh all right, I have no good excuse other than the fact that I am chicken. I am the new kid on the block and most of the bloggers that I follow have at least taken Kristin’s course. I am still the new kid in class, watching and learning how it all works.

  7. I lurk here and there. Sometimes I can’t think of anything to say so I don’t. I do occasionally post something that I later think is stupid, but I want the blogger, or whoever to know that I visited and saw what they took the time to post.

    I’m glad you’re not a lurker in the blog world. It’s so nice to see you leave comments.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  8. Stacy, I think you’re pretty reformed! You’ve commented here plenty – and thanks for doing so today! πŸ™‚

    Coleen – yup, I push past the urge every day. So glad you’re getting out there!

    Louise – glad its not just me! πŸ™‚

    Jennifer – I totally get this! As anyone who’s read my books knows, brevity and simplicity are not my fortes. πŸ˜€ I often read blogs on my smartphone, which is even more of an incentive not to leave those long comments, so I often just… don’t. But now, I try to go back later when I’m on the computer!

    Debra, you know you can get me with a Transformers quote! πŸ˜€ And all of that is sooo true. I’m sure no one but me remembers the stupid comment I left on someone’s blog six years ago!

    Lynn, you are so right, time is always a challenge for me, too. And I think it’s better to pop in even if we don’t contribute much – nothing wrong with just saying hi! Thanks for taking the time to stop here today. πŸ™‚

    Charis, lurking is a really hard habit to break! And developing other good WANA habits takes time. You’re doing fine – and remember, you are not alone!

    Patricia, I have the same problem – sometimes I just don’t have anything to say, contributing or otherwise. But I totally agree with you – sometimes, just stopping by to let someone know you appreciate their post is enough. Thanks for stopping by here!

  9. Often I enjoy a post but can’t think of anything relevant to say so don’t comment. Sigh. Yes, I’ve posted comments I later think are stupid, but I say more stupid things than I write, so I probably offend fewer people online.

    This post has got me thinking about what I hope to accomplish with/get from social media. Thanks for it, Jennette.

  10. LOL, Pat – that is so true for me, too! I do much better in writing because I can think about it, and correct it if it’s not too late. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. It’s laziness, too. It takes a couple minutes to enter my name, email, website and type a comment, then proofread what I’ve composed to make sure I haven’t made an ass of myself. lol. Most of the time, it’s easier to read without commenting.

  12. So true, Macy! The worst are the ones with the horrible Captchas/word verification, especially if I don’t get them right the first time. And yeah, I always proofread too – the fun of being a writer!

  13. A lurker trying to reform. πŸ™‚ All of the reasons listed by those who’ve commented. Time is really short, so if I have any difficulty with those horrible Captchas – I’m done. I move on to a blog that will let me comment. Oh, yeah. Proofreading, and sometimes re-writing. Cant get away from that. But, you’ve made me feel guilty enough that Im going to try to comment a little more often. Good post, Jennette.

  14. Jennette, Bless you for commenting so much lately on my blog. I have to admit to being a partial lurker and ironically I’m the opposite of you. I am an extreme extravert in person and I’ve always got something to say (whether others think it’s worth hearing is another story).

    My lurking stems from time constraints mostly. I can read more blogs if I only comment on a few (and at least the other bloggers get a hit to swell their numbers) or I comment quickly on the FB post announcing the blog post so the blogger knows I did stop by.

    My other reason is that I am trying to break the habit of blabbing away when I truly have nothing all that marvelous to say. And on that note I will end this comment. Great post!

  15. Aww, Lynette – it wasn’t supposed to make anyone feel guilty, just offering encouragement and saying hey, I’m a lurker too! Glad you came by!

    Kassandra, feel free to babble away! (I do that, too LOL). I so can relate to the time constraints. Thanks for taking the time to visit here!

  16. I mostly lurk on blogs I subscribe to by email. If the entire post is included, it’s really easy to just read it in my inbox and move on to the next email. And like Stacy said, in popular blogs that get a lot of comments, I don’t feel like I have anything new to add.

    I try to be better with WANA blogs. I don’t feel so shy since I feel like I know you guys. But I need to get better with commenting other blogs I read.

    I’m also guilty of ‘me, me, me’ comments, especially if the topic is something I feel passionate about or it touches an experience I’ve had. After leaving a comment like that, I’m often a little embarrassed about not focusing more on the blogger. Like now πŸ˜›

    So, thank you for writing such a great blog. It’s a pleasure to read every time πŸ™‚

  17. Hi, semi reformed lurker here. Some days you feel like a Lurk, some days you don’t. I still tend to lurk on some of the more popular blogs, Kristen Lambs for instance. By the time I read it dozens of folks have already commented, many are close friends with her, and I get that old feeling from high school; not part of the “in crowd”. No girls, that never really goes away.

  18. It was the first few comments that were unnerving. After I posted several, it just felt like regular conversation. I don’t always comment, but if I have something to say, I’m no longer shy about it. πŸ™‚

  19. Reetta, I do the same thing – I try to comment on my WANA friends’ blogs, because you’re exactly that – friends! But putting ourselves out there on other blogs can have benefits too. That’s something I want to do more of. And it’s OK to comment about yourself! I can’t speak for other bloggers, but that’s one thing I enjoy most about this gig – getting to know other writers and readers!

    Prudence, LOL! And so true. Sometimes it feels like we never left high school!

    Julie, you’re right, it does get easier! And not to imply that we need to comment every time – all our time is limited – but it’s appreciated whenever you do!

  20. I mostly don’t comment because of time, but I hear what you are saying, and there are some blogs where the topic is so expert level or niche that I totally feel out of my element. In my head I am certain that whatever I say will sound stupid. I know this is a dumb way to think, but the fear is still there!

    Great post!


  21. I hadn’t really thought about fear being the reason people don’t comment. I sort of figured it was more about not connecting with the post or maybe feeling like they don’t have the time. That’s good to know, though. In the future, I’ll try to be more inviting to encourage comments. Great post!

  22. Alana, you’re absolutely right – sometimes the reason we don’t have anything to add is because it’s not a topic we relate to (or care about). And yes, time’s definitely a factor! I do think we need to invite people to comment by asking open-ended questions. Thanks for commenting!