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.  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.  The urge to just lurk is a temptation I still fight daily. 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.