The desire to lurk versus the value of participating

I have always been a lurker. I am not sure if this is my nature or my nuture. I know I THINK A LOT about what I read on my facebook newsfeed and people’s reviews on Goodreads (my two favourite social networks), I just don’t necessarily share those thoughts.

I’ve been burned a couple times. Once I despaired when someone (an up and coming YA author actually) did some spoiling for a TV show. He chastised me. I know I have been ‘unfriended’ by a couple of people on Goodreads, and I don’t know why. But I do know it’s not my issue. However, it’s hard not to take things personally.

I see kids spilling their guts online and I want to tell them to be careful and cautious. But on the other hand, I envy their nonchalance, their confidence. I recognise the power of participating, and the feeling that comes with connecting to people who ‘get’ me. I encourage students to use the discussion forums and other web 2.0 tools we set up in school settings and it’s interesting to see the way they use these differently to their own social networks. But there is a paradox in how we want them to behave there. We want them to see our tools the way they see their outside-school networks (i.e useful and a way to connect), but we also don’t want them to necessarily behave on them the same way (i.e write silly things or taunt others). It’s confusing.

Professionally over the years, I have watched seemingly innocent posts on the OzTL Net Listserve start dreadful encounters. Accusations fly around, followed by defensive counter-posts followed up by supportive cries for the initial poster, ending with calls for calm. It’s a big thing to put yourself out there. But it’s also important that we do. Online communities can be a rich experience. Just as we encourage our students to think carefully before posting, we should take our own advice. And the rewards are there if we are willing to take the risks.




12 thoughts on “The desire to lurk versus the value of participating

  1. Trisha, I agree so wholeheartedly. I feel that way about writing comments on other people’s blogs as sometimes I am not sure how the comment will be taken. Also, I feel that part of what we should be doing in writing the comment is almost taking away from the work of the author of the blog. Added to that is that I don’t want to sound like a fool with my comment, so I might just keep it to myself. I think many people will really agree with your sentiments above. Well done.


  2. That’s why the little ‘like’ button is so popular, I reckon. It’s a ‘hey I am here and I hear ya’ without a need to overshare.

    On the other hand, there are some genius comments around and when I do say the exact right thing, that can feel really good.

    It is easier with friendly friends.

    Thank you for your comments.



  3. Hi Trisha,
    I enjoyed your post, because I have been thinking a lot about lurking as well. I am also a lurker–I very productively use Twitter as a PLN, but a one-sided one, for example. I follow many interesting people and find excellent resources and ideas this way, but I don’t interact as such. No tweets. Funnily enough, I have a few followers! I agree that it’s scary to put thoughts out there, especially seeing what can happen at times. Thank you for posting. You’ve helped me in my thinking about this, too. Cheers!


  4. I like Facebook too, and have been added as friends by several of my work colleagues. Every time I post if makes me think about the public private divide and how I have become my own moderator. I agree with MissUsb about the like button. Sometimes I don’t want to enter into a discussion, I just want to let them know I have seen it, read it and it has come to my attention.


  5. Look at all us lurkers coming out to play.

    I wrote this entry because I have been reading lots of posts and haven’t really known how to reply in a considered, academic way. But I am determined to try harder.



  6. Lurking can be learners with laryngitis. The thoughts that you are expressing I can understand to some degree. My initial years as a teacher were isolating and sharing was not encouraged and somehow I think that has dinted my courage to speak out in the public domain, although give me a soapbox and I can stand in front of a physical audience and perform.

    I feel that I think deeply about ideas, concepts, issues and arguments, while I enjoy writing, I use talking as a medium for sharing, reflecting, evaluating and moving on appropriately. In my role as an instructional leader in a school that has been torn apart by strife inflicted by a leader with no communication skills I find I am always countering that and its almost as if I have to overcompensate in the talking and writing communication in the school context.

    I enjoy following various people on Twitter I gain pleasure out of seeing colleagues with whom I have had connections over years developing a respected and confident voice in the social media. I find I learn so much from them. I enjoy following the lives of my physically distant family on Facebook, also but do not give back as much as they give me.

    I am so busy listening to my colleagues, thinking, reading and learning about what it is I need to do and model for those with whom I am working that I have little time to network on a wider basis. I am constantly seeking resources online and through social media (but as a lurker) while sharing and encouraging my colleagues to get out there and they join in. They are on Facebook and Pinterest has captured their imagination as a source of sharing over the Internet , both personally and professionally, so I have achieved something.

    I am a blogger. I have kept a personal blog it is now defunct because of time pressures. I do, however, blog on a regular basis with my students and in my previous school a colleague and I led the way with several very successful blogs.

    The thing is if I don’t make regular contributions to a blog or Twitter I feel I am letting myself down. That is why it is good to work with the students on a blog. We are regularly networking around the world. They can’t wait to see how many hits we get on our blog. They love the conversations they have that go back and forth across borders. They soak up the experience and the insights they are gaining about other students from other places and it is widening their horizons way beyond the boundaries of the small country town in which they live.

    The tools the students are using to present their work and ideas in interesting ways prods them onward. The activities we do are required, by the students, to be exciting and engaging because they know if they are then the audience will come. They love seeing those red dots grow in size. They love to see them proliferating all over the globe.

    The Lurker I am happens to follow some interesting Twitterers and one of them was lamenting that she is always giving and sharing and gets disheartened when others do not give as much as she feels she does. An interesting conversation went back and forwards among their twitter crowd, as a lurker I listened and it is since then I have been trying to have the confidence to contribute. My voice is croaky and when I did post a couple of pictures with comments on Twitter I attached them to the wrong post … ha ha!

    Here is the link to that interaction

    Good luck and I hope we all find our voices.


    1. Lurkers feel embarrassed (ashamed?) of their reluctance to contribute and these are all the reasons why. We need to realise that there are a lot of people who feel the same and still have a go.

      Your persuasive stance is both encouraging and supportive.

      #weareacommunity #INF530


  7. A ‘Lurker” – yes I identify with this completely! I am a digital Lurker… I am much less comfortable with sharing my opinions, views and (dare I say it..) insights – in the digital world. I too encourage students to participate, “have a go”, be enthusiastic and be present in their learning experience… a position that has a lot to gain from – but responsibility as well. Yet, at times I struggle with “stepping it up” in the same way… perhaps I am more of an “observer” at this stage, as I move to being a participant. I do feel I am perhaps hyper-sensitive to these responsibilities and the impact our engagement may have now and in the future… or is it my need to have control?!# I really enjoyed your insight!


  8. I too would describe myself as a digital lurker, yet in “real” PLNs I tend to be quite vocal, and the person who asks a lot of questions. Writing is not my preferred medium; and I often struggle to be able to communicate effectively in written text. I find it challenging to write “academically” in a professional blog, but am becoming more comfortable with it as a result of having to do just that for this course. There’s something to be said about being thrown in the deep end, and just getting on with it! I plan to continue “faking it till I make it”, so that eventually this becomes more natural for me, and I feel more comfortable about participating rather than just lurking as often as I do. Don’t really like the term “lurker” – sounds a bit sneaky to me.
    You might like to check out this TED talk by Amy Cuddy ( about how we can “fake” body language to help us channel our “assertive hormones” better and become more participatory – how does one transfer this to the virtual domain I wonder?


  9. Trish, I want to change from a lurker to a leader. Before beginning this course I had just dipped my toe into Social Media, I tended to have a look around, a good think, use a few ideas but wasn’t confident to share a lot or publish. I had only published what I had to for post graduate study purposes. What I found was that I didn’t feel connected to the communities I was observing.
    I too have observed the sometimes negative on goings on OZTLnet. I have used that forum personally only to ask about a specific resource. The negative on goings I have observed have often occurred by misunderstandings and assumptions. I agree with you that we need to be very careful about what we do publish.
    My use of Twitter for my PLN has exploded tenfold over the last two weeks. I chose to focus on one type of social media to begin with and went with Twitter because it is so widely used and we were using it already for our TweetMeets .I watched for a day or two, retweeted some great posts and then after participating in a Tweet Meet put my hand up and have since constructed a few tweets or made comments on sites. One of my Tweets got retweeted by SCIS – I was surprised how pleased I was. I am being followed by more people and am using it to connect with others. I have chosen to keep Twitter for mainly professional use.
    Rheingold as included in our introduction to Module 3 says that the future of digital culture depends on how we use it. We are all digital citizens who do have a responsibility to contribute to knowledge networks in a fair and productive manner.
    I have made small attempts at engaging students to use social media like tools at school. I have been surprised how hesitant older students are. They will share nearly everything out of school but once it is in the school environment they ask questions like “Do we have to? Is it being assessed? Who is seeing this information?”. Maybe they don’t think it’s cool. I am now going to take a refreshed and motivated new attempt as I am now understand the benefits even more through the modules we have been studying.
    Rheingold, H. (2014, Februrary). Network Awareness . Retrieved April 2014, from Vimeo:


    1. I have two twitter accounts which can be confusing. I tweet on behalf on the Qld branch of the CBCA and that involves following a lot of publishers and authors, public and state libraries and Govt organisations such as the Prime Ministers Literary Awards, and retweeting about new books and author talks and even literary festival news. I love that feed which has quite a few followers now.

      My own twitter account is hooked into Info literacy groups, more authors and especially the SEQ traffic feed. I mostly only tweet my fiction reads because it taps into my Goodreads account. Of course I have also added #INF530 tweets, but I find I am doing more sharing on G+ and diigo. It’s interesting what works for different people.

      Thank you for posting to my blog.



  10. I can completely relate to what you are saying here Trisha. I have always been a lurker. I scroll through my Facebook feed but seldom ‘like’ anything or post a comment. I’ve been a member of online book clubs via ‘GoodReads’ but rarely share my thoughts. Whenever I do have to make a post, I know that I overthink it. I always seem to be mildly worried about what other readers will think about me or that they will misconstrue what I say. Yet despite all that, I often reply to people on Instagram. Upon reflection, this is likely because I only follow those people that I am very close to on this platform.

    Not everyone would agree, but I choose to separate my personal and my professional lives online. Facebook and Instagram are personal. Twitter is professional. I have personal and professional Pinterest accounts and blogs. The double up does create extra work for myself on occasion but at this point, I’m not comfortable having the two lives linked into the same account. Work can be quite stressful so I feel the need to escape it and if it was interlinked, then I would feel like I never get a rest.

    Your points regarding student use of web 2.0 tools is particularly relevant in my school setting at the moment. Some staff here are beginning to use Twitter and GoodReads in the classroom. A clear benefit is that students are able to continue their learning at times that suit them and can draw on the knowledge of those in their cohort or wider network for assistance. Both staff and students are still working out their opinions on if separate personal and professional accounts are necessary. Students seem to be reluctant to link their personal accounts up to their teachers as they don’t want to feel ‘observed’ at all times. It isn’t very different to them wanting to keep their parents removed from their online lives after all.

    The resistance from staff is partly due to the privacy issues, but also because they then feel obligated to always be connected. A frequent debate revolves around what time of day staff should stop responding to student queries. Some can only respond late at night due to family commitments and others can only do so early in the afternoon for the same reason. For our staff the issue of fairness is frequently discussed as some students resent that they don’t get the extra help at the time that suits them (ie. 11pm). It is something I am grappling with myself as I don’t want work to completely take over my life, yet I can see the value in continuing connected learning via online platforms outside of the traditional learning hours.

    It’s something I am definitely going to need to keep pondering. Lurking less and sharing ideas with others will likely help me get there a lot quicker too!


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