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Lurking definition

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.

Further reading

See also: flaming, troll

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