Is Blog Lurking Really So Wrong?

BlogHer Original Post

As a reader, I am always fascinated by the way that we use language, and the way our use of words color and provide context to our experiences. The words that we choose as our shorthand – categorizing people, their actions, and behavior – are very telling to me. There is one word in particular that I am sensitive about, probably because I often feel as if I am one of those so designated and condemned. Lurker. It sounds so sinister. As if someone is going to jump out of the bushes and do something; as if someone has been stalking you and following you around with your permission, as if there is some harmful intent, as if there should be a gigantic scarlet L on the lurker’s forehead.

I lurk on blogs. There, I said it! I read content and don’t leave any thoughts, feedback, useful criticisms or provide new and interesting avenues of discussion. I eavesdrop on conversations and then sneak away, directing my friends to those posts which we then discuss on our own. I sometimes act upon knowledge gleaned and conclusions drawn from those preyed upon posts. I steal away with book suggestions, often running off to buy them and many more by the same author and others I encounter on my buying spree. I visit blogs and bask in their charm, originality, creativity and intelligence – sometimes I am even inspired and answer that inspiration with a positive reaction … elsewhere. I visit the blogs of my friends and smile lovingly at their words but sometimes have neither the energy, presence of mind, or coherent thoughts to leave as evidence of my presence. Like I said, terrible!

Lurking is a term that I think of as specific to blogs. I don’t think “proper” websites worry about people “lurking” around their content and stealing away without even saying hello. They provide information and a service and hope that it translate into action, something that is quantifiable, but often on faith that their presence will lead to rewards -- which granted are not immediately quantifiable -- in the future.

It’s an odd thing to think about, but I think the term lurking and it being applied to blog READERS, says much more about certain styles of blogging, bloggers and our need for validation, and quite frankly … comments. The term indicates to me that it’s much less about those who are taking the time to read our blogs. Could we be projecting onto others a sketchy designation, even though we mostly do it “lovingly,” because we are not being fulfilled our need to be talked to, praised and patted on the back? Is lurker what we really want to call our faithful readers?

There are always a variety of ongoing arguments and difference of opinions that I observe in blogging communities, and in my particular home community of book bloggers -- a right way for people to run their blogs -- most of the time, it just goes in one ear and out the other, because for me, the beauty of blogs is that they are personal. I don’t think you should standardize them. I don’t think I should have a review policy, or a social media policy or participate in anything unless I feel it works for me and the goals of my blog. I have to trust my readers to determine for themselves whether I provide an experience which is worthy of their time -- which is a very precious resource.

A premise that drives me a little crazy is the one that measure comments as the sign of a blog’s worth. I think it contributes to this kind of crazy idea and resulting terminology where others are somehow actively doing something to me when they are “lurking” about my blog and not entering into the community aspect that can exist in blogging. The time constraints of life in general keep me in lurker mode for a great many things in life as a whole, and on far more blogs than I would like.

I enjoy readers who pop in frequently and infrequently when they have something to say, and it never bothers me that many others stop by everyday because they think (whether that proves to be true for them or not) that I might have something of value to share with them on any given day. I think it’s great that there are many who let me know that they are present, but that in no way diminishes those who silently grace me with their presence and potentially give me the opportunity to alter something in their world or at the very least to share my experiences with them.

When I read what others have to say, I am amused, pleased, skeptical, thoughtful, angry, intrigued, curious, satisfied, annoyed, content and myriad other ways of being. I am invariable changed, if only in a small way, by each perspective I encounter. I am always grateful for the opportunity for my expansion in emotions, knowledge, ideas, and as a person.

Photo Credit: by Simon Pearson.

Readers, silent or not, are always welcome! Linus's Blanket

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