How to… be an online lurker

1.    They say that lurkers comprise about 90 per cent of the online population, so you probably think being one couldn’t be that hard. But it takes some serious dedication to spend hours and hours hanging about on various websites, forums, social networking sites, etc. without contributing a thing. Keep eye-drops handy to help those tired, strained eyes; flex that mouse-holding hand often, and invest in a comfy computer chair. You’re not going to be moving from that spot for a while.

2.    Remember – however moving the blog entry, however much you enjoyed the Youtube video, however exciting the conversation on the forum, the first commandment of lurker-hood is ‘Thou Shalt Not Comment.’ You can register on the forums/blogs, etc. In fact, you should – how else can you get access to everything and lurk properly? You can dream up comments in your head. You can even compose them on the page, but you never actually hit enter and post.

3.    Of course, just because you don’t participate, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get deeply involved in the flame wars / discussions on these websites. Drop by the site every few hours. Follow conversation threads obsessively and hit refresh repeatedly to see how the drama unfolds. Know all the regulars by their usernames, and have the ‘history’ of the online community down pat. In other words, treat it all like a soap opera that’s happening in real-time, and follow all developments with bated breath.

4.    As a lurker, you should be aware that your kind tends to get a bad rap from the average self-righteous net denizen. You might get called a ‘moocher’ who just consumes content and doesn’t contribute, or be painted as the sloth of the online universe, who can’t be bothered to do any thing more than stare at the screen slack-jawed. To this, dear lurker, you must just turn deaf ears. Only you know how much effort goes into lurking. And your (very frequent) visits still register loudly on page-view hit counters –they don’t just go up to the thousands by themselves!

5.    Finally, every lurker has that moment when he’s seized by a strong desire to ‘de-lurk’ and post something after months of silent snooping. Your heart starts pounding and your palms get all sweaty at the thought of revealing yourself to the regulars, but you can’t fight the temptation. So stick to the following rules: make sure you have a username like ‘Anon123’ (so it’s obvious that you’re a lurker at heart), restrict your comment to something inane like ‘lol’, and then return gratefully to your natural state – lurking.

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