The practice of reading and observing an online community without actively participating in any way. A “lurker“ is an anonymous user of an online community like a message board, social networking site, or forum. Users often hide for a while since they are still learning about the site and want to become more comfortable with it before contributing. The forum administrators may even recommend lurking as a technique for new members to learn the rules and norms of the forum before actively engaging. It’s worth noting that read/write web layouts are still very new, and many users choose to “lurk“ for some time before posting.
Benefits of lurking:
- Lurking helps gain perspective, information, and insight.
- Lurkers enjoy learning new things.
- Lurking on social media has personal and social rewards.
- Lurkers follow up on ideas, report broken links, seek advice and comments, and connect via email, Skype, etc.
- Lurkers can help prevent information overload, pay more attention as listeners or audiences, or justify and target online activity, which can enable communication.
- Lurkers share information between online groups and social areas that might otherwise be isolated.
Drawbacks of lurking:
- Lurking can skew social media reach estimations.
- Lurking has raised privacy concerns, which is why platforms like Facebook have introduced features to help users hide some parts of their profiles from anybody but their friends.
See also: flaming, troll