How to stop lurking

May 28, 2021

What is lurking?

It’s an internet term for someone that observes but never contributes. A Smeagol, if you will.

Imagine you are at a party, and there is someone walking around, looking over people’s shoulders, listening to their conversations. All without interacting with them. That’d be weird right? But somehow we justify this behaviour on social media.

I first identified lurking in church. Lurking is problematic for churches because it kills genuine relationships. People(myself included) get comfortable and after a while it's easy to find yourself just going to church to “get your Jesus for the week.” This consumer mentality kills authenticity, which is critical to the change Christianity seeks to make. The times that I have been most shaped through church is collaborative learning. Something that isn't possible when people aren't bought in.

This is a problem for communities at large. You might have heard of the 1% rule, but on many platforms, the percentage of those who create and contribute can be even more skewed.

Why do we lurk?

Because we don’t belong or at least we don’t feel like we do. Unfortunately, people have baggage or fear around not belonging. But belonging has to do with putting yourself out there because people can't appreciate you without knowing you. Fear only keeps you from belonging.

“If you want something you gotta bring it”

The internet is basically a potluck, and everyone brought chips. Deciding to contribute is an act of generosity. Decide to make the buffalo chicken dip that everyone will thank you for.

How am I bringing it?

For me

  • Bringing it to church is centered around confessing my sin to other believers. I take the lead and out myself on stuff most people keep to themselves. The result: relationships are built, I get a stake in the ground, and others are strengthened to do the same.

  • Bringing it at work is me asking the dumb questions and not DM’ing them. I sacrifice my pride by posting in the public channel so that the people that are afraid to do the same can benefit. I avoid LGTM’ing PRs and try to at least say something positive in response.

  • Bringing it on the internet for me is about choosing communities to contribute to and joining their discord and answering their SO questions. I have been trying different things here, and for me, it has been helpful to set a cadence on it. IE. “I will answer one SO question a day about framer-motion” or whatever that looks like to you.

Ultimately, belonging comes down to being known, and to be known you must fight the fear that you won’t belong and expose yourself.

How are you exposing yourself?

If you have any tips on how you went from lurking to contributing send them my way! I am still figuring this beast out, so I would love to hear them.


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