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November 2, 2011

Is the word "lurk" a Bad Thing?

What do you think of when you hear the word "lurk?" Does it give you the willies as you imagine some dark stranger hiding out in your house? Or do you think of somebody who reads, but doesn't post, to a discussion forum? People who read discussion forums but don't bother to contribute to them are called "lurkers."

Merriam-Webster actually has both definitions.

Yesterday I was in a discussion where somebody used the term "lurker" to mean the latter, to be a member of a site but not actually contribute to it, at least right away. He said that she would be "lurking" on the site. It made a couple of the women in the discussion uncomfortable, and a mini-discussion about the word started. I came out and said that, having been on the Internet almost since its inception, the word "lurker" doesn't mean anything bad to me, unless the context of that use demands it, of course. If somebody tells me that an evil-looking guy is hanging around the school lurking in the corner, then obviously that's bad.

But just the word itself? Especially used in the context which it's been used for the Internet for years?

It just struck me as odd.

I was even told by one of the women that "if you were a woman, you'd understand."

That may be, but I don't think so. Who knows? Maybe I would.

So I'd like to throw this out there to all of you.

Is the word "lurking" a bad thing, in and of itself? With all context removed? (Even though I think the context was plain anyway)

Now, if you've never heard of the Internet "lurking" definition, then your opinion may be skewed. I'd still like to hear your viewpoint, though.

It's weird how we can be completely blind-sided sometimes, discovering the weird permutations of something that we've been doing or saying for years.

(edited to clarify that I'm mainly talking about the *word* "lurk," not the act of lurking in general. Sorry for the confusion!)


  1. I don't think lurking is bad, per se... especially if it's on a public site. On a private site where people are sharing deep, personal, dark secrets, I think it's not as acceptable. If I'm sharing potentially embarrassing stuff about my life, I expect you to extend the same courtesy... ;-) That way, no one has the ability to blackmail anyone else!

  2. Hey Knotty!

    LOL I was actually talking about the word itself being bad, but I realize that the title of the post is kind of misleading.

    And you're right. If it's a private forum, there shouldn't be anybody lurking. They should be contributing as well.

  3. Okay... well personally, I'm not creeped out by the word "lurker"... Though I guess I can understand how that might conjure up visions of some creepy person up to no good.

  4. I think it boils down to experience again. If you're really familiar with the Internet term, then the word by itself loses most of that bad feeling, I think.

  5. Well, you knew this post would grab my attention. If we're talking about the ACTION of lurking, in real, corporeal time, then I think anyone is going to become a bit focused on the person doing the lurking. You just do notice, after all.

    When applied to the internet, I don't have any issues with lurking. As long as the person isn't doing any harm, I see no issue. I have a private group on FB that's dedicated to healing, Lightworkers, etc. I created it to give a very small group of women only (yes, it's exclusionary, I know that) to have a private space to discuss personal issues, share happy moments and request healing and/or prayer. It's a small group of less than 35 people. The activity level varies. We can go for weeks with no posting, and then it will shift to daily and multiple posting for a while. There is a core number of women who are the most active in response to any post. The others remain largely silent.

    Are they lurkers, in light of this? I don't think so. I think that they appreciate the dynamic and energy and focus of the group, but for whatever reason, don't wish to join in the discussions. I find no problem with this at all. Same goes for any other site. I don't think "lurking" is a negative. There are going to be people who belong to various groups, pages and sites who never post comments. I have followers of my blog who do the same thing, and I value them every bit as much as I value the readers who regularly post comments. Live and let live, people!

    Just my two cents, Dave. :)

    - Dawnie

  6. LOL I really need to stop dashing these blogs off, or at least the titles. :)

    I totally understand your points, Dawnie, and agree with them.

    What prompted the post, and I see I didn't really explain this very well, was the instinctive "I don't like that word!" reaction when it was used. It sort of blindsided me, because I'm so used to it meaning "reading without contributing" or something similarly benign.

    Unless somebody actually says something like "there's somebody lurking in the corner over there" or something else where the context is obvious, I don't have any sort of negative reaction to the word itself.

    So the reaction surprised me.

  7. Oh, I totally understand your reaction! Even taking into mind my recent experiences with something that could fall under the "lurking" label, I still hadn't been aware this whole mindset existed this strongly in the online world.

    To be honest, I usually have a humorous reaction to the word. It always brings to mind the old TV series, The Addams Family. I know, I know, the character's name was Lurch, not Lurk, but it still makes me put the two together in my mind. Or I think of John Belushi doing his nighttime creeping about the campus moment. Now you've gotten another glimpse of my grasshopper mentality! ;-)

  8. That mentality is one of the many reasons we love you, Dawnie. :)


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