Why do I lurk online?

Derek Meer

Derek Meer
Posted on 03 Nov 2020 ยท 2m read

I've always been solitary; I pursue somewhat anti-social hobbies. It's not that I dislike people, but I prefer spending time alone to spending time with anyone else. Yet even I want a few close friends. To make friends, I've tried joining a couple online communities and attending in-person meetup groups, but I always end up lurking in them.

Lurk: to observe without comment or contribution, making yourself invisible to the rest of the group or community."

Urban Dictionary

Yes, I know I should assert myself and make a better effort to participate. I don't think I'm alone in my situation, though. Plenty feel hesitant to join a community and, as a result, neglect their fundamental human need for connection. How can communities better accommodate the lurkers among us?

Ease us in

Putting ourselves out there feels intimidating. To counteract our hesitation, communities should host recurring warm ups: low-stakes topics or events which require conscious effort to attend. These would allow us to find our footing without overwhelming us. A minimal example: monthly introduce yourself forum threads. Experienced members would create and monitor these threads to ensure new members aren't ignored.

Connect with us

Once we've made initial contact, we need to find and connect with a few established members who share our traits and interests. To be clear: we don't want clones. We want people to bond with over a few shared experiences. We value these connections. Plus, they create anchors between each member and the community at large.

Listen to us

Now that we're members, we expect decision-makers and community leaders to listen to our concerns and opinions. They may not adopt our views, but they need to at least acknowledge them. If they don't, we'll drift away and stop participating.

I've briefly touched on a few ways communities can approach and adopt lurkers. Lurkers, when active, could bring valuable experiences and discussions to the table. Try reaching out to them before advertising your community externally.

Interested in learning more about building high-quality communities? Have any feedback or adjustments to this short article? Let me know!