If Someone Called You A LURKER In Real Life, Wouldn’t You Beat Them Up?

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 – categorize people and 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 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, some 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.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane Readers, silent or  not, are always welcome!

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  1. BOY do I agree with what you say here (have you noticed that I have my own snarky blurb about lurkers on my sidebar, pointing out that in a certain British YA book they’re another name for pimples?). I’ve made myself get more chatty on some blogs, because it’s evidence of how much I am paying attention, but sometimes I just want to go away and mull over what I’ve read.

    1. The thought of pimples as lurkers cracks me up. That is an apt name for them, but not for our poor readers. Like you said I do like to make my presence known and be social with people, but I also want to let go of the idea that I am lurking about or anyone is lurking about if I/they can’t/don’t.

      1. I meant to agree more absolutely than I evidently did–see, writing is hard! What I wasn’t saying well is that I have the joke on there to make people feel more free to comment. It’s not like you have to say something profound to make a comment. If you want readers to be friendly, you’ve got to find a way to seem friendly yourself.

  2. I love lurkers. Mostly I just refer to the whole group of lurkers and commenters as readers. I’m glad they visit even if they are too shy or have nothing to say. I do love comments though because then I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself. But there is something to be said for people who just listen too.

    I totally agree with your last line: Readers, silent or not, are always welcome!

  3. Love this post! In the College Students group on Goodreads that I created, we had this discussion a while back. When a thread is posted you can see how many views are on there in comparison to the posts. It is always interesting to see how many people “lurk”. The discussion was really interesting about WHY people do it–for many of the same reasons you indicated above (and I have to agree I lurk for the same reasons on blogs). One thing that came up in the group was that they felt intimidated–by the size of the group and the fact that alot of us are really tight knit. I believe it can happen on blogs too when you are building community–which should be the goal. We also mentioned how lurkers is such a harsh term and that maybe something more gentler would steer people away from the negative connotations that come along with that word. Anyways, great post! Very thought provoking!

    PS. Can’t wait to plan our NYC area meetup! I saw something on Twitter about a meetup going on in Cali and got jealous! 🙂

    1. Thanks Jamie! I can definitely sympathize with feeling shy on blogs. It can be very intimidating. I am often amused by how quickly and thoroughly online behavior mimics face to face situations. The same feelings of shyness and exposure are there, and can be just as real as with anything else.

      I know that Cali and Utah have ben having all the fun. We definitely have to get in on that action!

  4. You are in good company, based on the number of comments I get versus followers. And that is OK! I hope they are reading and having a good time while they visit my place. I just have to say that I feel alot better after reading your essay here. It is just silly to get hung up on all that stuff. I lurk too, sometimes, and it is kinda fun (especially on Twitter). We only have so many hours in a day after all. Love this post!

    1. The difference between commenters and readers is huge, and like you said it is perfectly okay for people to only read if they want. I feel really honored that so many people appear to have an interest and tune in for what I have to say. It is just very curious terminology that we have for readers.

  5. I certainly don’t hold it against anyone who reads my blog and doesn’t comment, but I’m always thrilled when people delurk and say hello! That’s why I try to remember to comment on blogs I read. Only I am sometimes too intimidated to say hi. :p

    1. I agree with you completely Jenny. It’s especially hard with a blog where you have not commented before! I do make the effort, but there are some blogs that I just read and enjoy, waiting for the moment that I actually have something of interest to say.

  6. This may sound horrible but even though I read a lot of blogs, I only comment if something somewhat substantial pops into my head. And, I have to admit, sometimes all my cylinders aren’t quite firing up! My mind is often a blank. I enjoy what review I’m reading, it all soaks in, but something doesn’t always come back out. I also don’t want to force it and just say something for the sake of a comment. I respect that those who read my blog may only have time to see the title and move on to something their more interested in, or read it and not have anything to say. Or decide they don’t like my blog and never come back. It’s all good!

    1. I agree with you so much Shelly! It is all good. I read some blogs for quite some time before I have the opportunity and the firing cylinders to say something of value. I figure that I will get my chance eventually. Blogging is very interesting. Most things we have been used to reading have not had the functionality to allow for easy commenting. People used to have to write letters to the editor or e-mail if they felt passionate about saying something and so the default for most people was not to say anything, which is okay. We are reading in so many places that make it so easy to comment now, that we can’t comment everywhere, even if we wanted to do so.

  7. This is a fantastic post. It’s so difficult to come up with something meaningful to say for every single post I read and sometimes I just don’t have time for it.. but I do make time to read and to take book suggestions seriously!

    1. So true Lydia. I read much more than I can possibly comment, but I certainly know which books I want to get as a result of my reading! Sometimes I do a simple comment just for the heck of it and to let people know I am reading, but mostly I can only comment, or want to, when I have something to say.

  8. I don’t measure my blog’s worth in number of followers or comments, but sometimes I’m surprised by what I see going on behind the scenes. For example, Blogger recently added a stats page, and it shows that my most looked at post is one about a movie that almost no one commented on at all. I figured I bored people by that post, since I don’t normally talk about movies, but I was too excited NOT to put it up (it was a very special movie). Or, during the first week of BBAW, people mentioned my blog that I didn’t even know. It’s very strange to think of people reading without saying anything, even though I do that all the time on many blogs. It just makes you realize how many people might be out there listening to that you don’t even know.

    1. I have been surprised by the number of people reading and between the blog and THIB, I have definitely had those moments where people I don’t know will mention something that I said and it is strange. I think we are so surprised because we get who happens to be wandering around the internet and just focus on what we see, and the people who are leaving comments as the only ones who are reading. The real truth is much more shocking!

  9. “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…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.”

    Me too! I often share links to posts that strike a chord with me even if I don’t comment, or use them as jumping-off points for posts of my own. (In the case of this post, I think it’ll be all three!)

    I’m also bothered by using comments as a measure of a blog’s worth, because by that standard, my blog’s not worth much…but I openly admit to equating comments with validation. 🙂

    Terrific post, Nicole!

    1. Thanks Florinda!

      I do the same things that you mention doing. The whole thing with commenting is also so interesting to me because how much we rely on what we can quantify for validation, approval, etc. It is very human and I think we have problems trusting what we can’t see. Candace said above that you just have to trust that the she is there, and in many cases, it is the same with me. Trust me, I’m there. But I do try to find things to say if I feel like I have gone a long time without saying something to a blogger I know. We bloggers know how it is.

  10. I agree that blogs are personal and everyone should blog the way they want to. I think we all love comments because we love to talk about books and it’s nice to know someone’s listening – most of us don’t have anyone in real life who are as interested in babbling about books as we are. Having said that, how do you comment when someone writes about a book that you have absolutely no interest in? Also, I think everyone needs to do what works for them with their blog and their commenting/lurking. I’m like you – I love all of my readers! (I hope all of this makes sense.)

    1. You make sense Kathy. That is the struggle with book blogging, there can be lots of posts about books that you don’t have any interest in, but you might be very interested in the blogger. I love that readers find enough here to show up and read even if they don’t have anything to say, I just think the name we use for them is very interesting.

  11. This is a wonderful topic to discuss! I am one of those people who visits a ton of blogs because I have a number of hours during the day and early evening when I have to be in front of a computer and like to browse around. I try to comment when I feel like I have something to add to the conversation or just to say hello if it has been a while since I have visited. That said, I usually feel a bit guilty if I don’t comment!! You people are all so wonderful.

    1. It is very difficult to find the right balance, isn’t it? I do the same thing as far as trying to leave a comment if I haven’t in a long while. Sometimes it is just nice to say hi!

  12. I read so many blogs every single day that I just don’t have the time to comment on all of them. Most of the time, I admit, I feel very bad about this. Comments aren’t necessary but it is just so nice to know that someone is reading my blog that I admit I want them. Ironic, considering I only comment on about 20% of the posts I read in a given day. There are bloggers out there who probably don’t even know that I’m reading them consistently.

    At BEA I joked around with people that I was going to start writing Hey-ey in the comments section when I was strapped for time just to let them know I read the post. Maybe that should be a new trend. 🙂

    1. I definitely sympathize and share in the same things you try to balance. Comments are important motivation for bloggers and it’s great to have exchanges with people and build community and friendships. I encourage people to comment but I do think it is interest that we have a name which is a little negative for the people who don’t.

      i want a button I can press that says “Nicole wuz here.”

  13. Definitely have nothing against lurkers–I do a lot of lurking myself because I simply don’t have time to comment on every post that interests me and I assume others are the same! I guess I never even thought of the term as being negative 🙂

    Like Amanda, I am sometimes surprised to find who is reading that I wasn’t aware of. It doesn’t bother me, it just surprises me. But I do enjoy it when those folks pop up and say hi in the comments, and because I enjoy that, I’m trying to make a point of commenting more on blogs where I tend to lurk.

    1. I have nothing against it. I think we all want to be read, and it is surprising how many do whom we have no idea about. As a blogger I do try to let people know that they have people reading them because I know how important it can be and I try to balance that with having something worthwhile to say. I think “lurking” is an interesting term to have been coined for being someone who reads blogs, but I do think we are so used to it being the term that we don’t think much about the connotations of the word.

  14. Love this post, Nicole! The word “lurker” does have a somewhat negative connotation, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t welcome! Again, it comes down to my idea that if we were really writing for our individual selves, comments and lurkers wouldn’t matter.

    1. Very true, if we were writing for ourselves. I think with blogging there is always some sort of ratio of how much we write for ourself and others. I don’t think that true writing for individuals can occur once the individual knows that there will be an audience.

      1. I like your idea of a ratio. In a way, lurkers are their own validation for our writing. I mean, we could be such great writers, we could stun them into silence or force them into thinking about our posts carefully before they are able to make a comment. There is nothing wrong with that! Getting people to think about things is half the battle.

  15. There are no words to say how much I love this post, and how glad I am that someone else feels like this about the matter.

    I am quite the quintessential lurker, because I follow and read lots of blogs, but I don’t always feel I have something meaningful to say about it (plus the fact that I sometimes get behind on my blog reading means that usually whenever I find a blog post where I do have something to add, there are already tens of comments, making it all the more difficult to say something that really matters). I do understand, of course, other people’s stance on it, but yup, using another word than lurker would have been nice 🙂

    1. Yes! You get me perfectly. It nice to have comments and interactions and to get to know some of your readers, and to be validated. I want that too. I just think it is interesting that we would coin a term that has rather negative connotations for the majority of people who read what we have to write. Online magazines have subscribers, readers, site visitors, and we have lurkers. LOL

  16. Great post Nicole! You are definitely right that the worth of any blog is definitely not the comments. When I tell people I lurk on their blog, I mean it in a good way – to me that term has taken on a WHOLE new meaning (at least in terms of blogging!) – I love having ‘lurkers’ because to me they are just readers, who are very appreciated. I guess I’ve just rolled with the use of the term and changed it to a positive one in my mind. Readers are definitely welcome whether they comment or not. I do like being able to return the favor and read their posts too though, which is one reason leaving at least one comment is nice! 😀

    1. I like the exchange of comments, and I do enjoy them. I think the majority of my readers might not have blogs though. I read almost all the bloggers who leave a comment. I think a lot of us have accepted this as the terminology. It is hard for me to think of it as a positive, though, even if it is the jargon. I would much rather my default for my readers to be readers. “My lurkers” as a term never pops to mind.

      1. That is very true Nicole! While I call myself a lurker, I don’t refer to readers as lurkers, but just as readers! So I guess I’ve really only adopted the term to myself. Too funny.

          1. Of course, after this post, I do wonder if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I’ve internalized… we all must have a lurking complex by now 😉

  17. I am new to this blogging world. I stumbled upon a blog about 3 months ago and saw that they had a giveaway linky. I clicked and got sucked into the vortex. I started lurking for giveaways, but after the first 2 weeks I started really reading, because I am a voracious reader. Now, my magazines sit unopened in a basket and I hop around the blogosphere each day. I comment maybe 1 out of every 20 or 30 posts I read. It is just my laziness. I appreciate honest reviews, funny tidbits and I love, love love photos. I know it sounds crazy, but when I see all the photos of people’s kids, pets, trips, haircuts, etc, I feel like I ‘know’ the blogger a little. I lurk because I care. Haha.

    1. April I do the same things on some blogs! It is great to find a blog that interests you, and to have the opportunity to get to know the blogger through their posts over time. I have to admit having a nosy streak for pictures as well! Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a few thoughts.

  18. I agree with everything you said here and well said too. I am too guilty of blog lurking. I do that in a lot of blogs and in yours, Nicole, in particular. I’m too either don’t have time for full blog post analysis or else don’t have anything meaningful to say. So I thought this post would be a good opportunity to stop, introduce myself and say hi.
    Hello, Nicole. I’m Ovrelia. I read and enjoy your blog for more than a half year.

    1. Hi Ovrelia! Thanks for stopping in to say hello. I am pretty sure that I have silently visited your blog as well. You have a distinctive name. I am always meaning to comment more. If I haven’t mange to say anything yet, believe me when I say that its me, and not you!

  19. I loved reading this…as a newer blogger…I was trying to follow and comment everywhere…and that started to be so stressful. I love comments on my blog…and love commenting back to fellow bloggers and I try to make meaningful comments. I love learning about the diversity of bloggers…and honestly…before I began blogging I had no clue that there were book lovers who read more than one book at a time…I still can’t do that…and one thing that I have learned is that people’s tastes in books are sort of similar to tastes in food…it is just something that is so personal…yours was one of the first blogs I started to follow…and I still follow you…

    1. Thanks Patty! i am so glad that I w as able to win you over for more than a few posts! you have to just do what you can. It is so overwhelming otherwise. I wonder whether I wold have picked up the habit of reading more than a book at a time if it weren’t for school. WIth school books there was just always something that I wanted to be reading more!

  20. I feel less guilty about lurking now! I have many blogs that I comment on regularly (like yours) and others that I have been reading forever and never comment on!

    1. I always appreciate you stopping by Kathleen, but never fell guilty for just reading! It’s so hard to let go of the pressure and the guilt, but certainly know you don’t have to feel it here. I understand!

    1. It does seem to be. I think we don’t mean any real harm in using it, and it has become almost like jargon now, but I just wondered, why such a negative start?

  21. I think this is a really great topic you bring up here, Nicole. I am a tried-and-true lurker if there ever was one. For me, a lot of it has to do with taking the subway. When I get on a subway, I either take out my book and read or I take out my phone and open my RSS app. I read a lot of blogs this way, on the go, and I can’t comment from it, only read. Even if I could comment from my phone, it would just be too complicating for me (and I wouldn’t have service under ground on the subway anyway). But even when I’m in front of the computer, I don’t really feel the need to comment unless I have something relative to add to that conversation. I think a lot of people are that way, and I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it! So I use the term “lurking” in an endearing way…although it does sort of elicit thoughts of Golem-like creatures! 🙂

    1. I agree! You are much cuter than Gollum, though. Sometimes, but not often these days, I do just say hi. If I waited strictly until I had something to add to a conversation, I might be invisible.

  22. Well, there is probably not a lot more to say except that I agree totally. I read a lot of blogs that I don’t comment on often and then others I do. I’ve gotten to where I flip through the posts on my reader and leave the ones that I want to read more fully. Some of those I will comment if I have something to add – some I won’t. I cut down on the number of blogs in my reader recently and that has been helpful. I love checking in with everyone, but my goodness, there are so many blogs now. I can only spend so much time on the computer and then life’s other duties call.

    I agree that the term “lurker” does suggest something furtive. Could we just call everyone “silent readers”? Sometimes that’s me. Sometimes not. Viva la “silent readers”! LOL

    1. Cheers to silent readers!

      We definitely could have chosen something a bit more positive to call the people who read our blogs regularly, and I’m not sure what is wrong with the term “reader”.

  23. What a great post – I think if the hits on my blog versus the amount of comments I get have anything to say, I have way more lurkers out there than just you! So you are in good company!

  24. Love this post! I lurk because there is not enough time in the day to “click through” off of Google Reader and comment on every post – I just can’t keep up!

  25. This is a great post! Like you, I try to make my presence known on blogs I read to the extent that I can. But between work and other obligations I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be. Having said that, I do read loads of blogs even if I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute in comments I’m still there listening to what you have to say and taking advantage of your influence. I think that is the most important thing.

    1. I totally agree with you Michelle. There are so many blogs that are so influential, but it’s all I can do to read them. Lately I have been popping up only when I have something to say (and with the way my brain is fried lately, that has not been often), and book blogs are a different animal anyway. My hands are automatically tied if I haven’t read a book (can’t offer an opinion), and lately I am skipping reviews of books that I know i have to read myself b/c I am such a spoiler-phobe. I don’t want any impressions but my own. But I am there. Like Candace says, you just have to trust me!

  26. Guilty of lurking so leaving a comment to say hello 🙂 Love your blog, Nicole, and what a great topic since everyone and their brother can probably relate.

  27. I like to comment on blogs I read at least every so often because I know how great it is when I see a comment on my own blog, and I think as long as you comment sometimes (or I guess if the person tracks stats they’ll be able to see a loyal visitor regardless) the person knows someone is reading. But yes, commenting on all posts is difficult especially because it’s difficult not to want to read lots of different blogs.

    There is a lot of emphasis on commenting and while it’s great to get feedback I don’t think we appreciate the simple idea of visitors enough.

    1. Yes. We love to have some people who let us know that we are there, and I am not saying I am against that or even above it. But I really appreciate my readers, and lurkers just seems to be such a questionable term for those who are so valued.

  28. I wandered in by way of Molly’s blog this Sunday. A lurker I am, to be sure, and I appreciate those that lurk on my own blog. Your posting here wraps up our little, rather big, cyberworld of words, thoughts and pictures in a far better way than I can, so, I’ll just say thanks for this lively conversation.

    1. I totally agree with you. I compulsively read blogs and fit in blog reading when I can, but it os so hard to comment very often, but I am there.

  29. Great post! You’re totally correct. I don’t feel guilty for reading the newspaper online without leaving a comment. I don’t feel badly about reading blogs other than book blogs without leaving comments. But when my reader has posts in excess of 150, there’s no way I’m going to have time to read every post and comment on every post. So I read most of them and leave comments on very few. Now I’m not going to feel so badly!

  30. Great post, Nicole. I won’t ever call my followers lurkers again. In a conversation with one author she mentioned how she doesn’t like the word ‘fan’ either. She prefers ‘reader friends’ and that’s exactly who my followers, silent or not are…’reader friends.’ For whatever reason they have chosen to follow me. Occasionally I get upset that few comment but then Florinda’s post kind of hit the nail on the head. Do I really need a pat on the back for what I write? Was I writing it for that purpose? Do I need that validation? Somedays, you know those ‘had a bad day, need a few hugs type of days,’ I actually feel like I do but for the most part, I don’t. Like beth said, I just need to trust in my readers, not worry about the stats or why people aren’t saying anything.

    Thanks for posting this. Kind of puts it all in perspective. We all just need to trust each other a bit more and worry less.