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thinking recently about ‘lurking’ – is it a good thing for us to have lurkers
on the Online Community?
never heard of the term lurker, you might be forgiven for thinking that it
refers to something pretty sinister – and it’s true that many people think it’s
a negative behaviour. Lurkers are people who spend time on internet forums or
chatrooms, reading what others write, but not actually posting anything
sound harmless enough, but the word ‘lurker’ itself is a clue to the fact that
not everyone thinks so. It conjures up images of a threatening presence hiding
in the shadows and watching what other people say.
On the one
hand, this is understandable. Online Communities like ours rely on people
opening up and sharing their stories. Being honest about feelings and
experiences that you might not even be able to discuss with your closest
friends can leave you feeling very vulnerable. And if you become aware of
someone on the site reading those stories and not sharing anything in return,
it’s natural that you might feel a little uncomfortable.
at the Macmillan Online Community, we aim to support everyone affected by
cancer. So it’s really important for us to remember that those people who
aren’t posting are still likely to have a cancer experience – and that we
should also consider their needs.
isn’t posting on the site, does that mean that they aren’t getting anything out
of it? I don’t think it necessarily does. Quite often, I see that members
create an account some weeks or months before they first post. Sometimes they
say that it has taken them a long time to get up the courage to write something.
Other times they mention how much it has helped them just to read about other
Even if there
are some members who never decide to post, if this site is helping them feel
less alone, it’s still doing its job.
So, the next
time you notice an account with no posts – or see someone silently present in
the chatroom – please remember to make them feel welcome, but don’t push them
to join in. They’ll probably do so when they’re ready.
Or, if you’re
one of those people who reads this site, but hasn’t yet posted anything – don’t
worry, you’re very welcome here.
Now, if only
we could think of a more positive word than ‘lurker’…
What do you think? How do you feel
when you see behaviour like this on the site? Did you read posts for a long
time before contributing yourself?
Participants found value in reading what others had posted even without
posting themselves. When asked “And what did you primarily use the forum
for? Was it to post information or to read postings by other members?”
several participants admitted to posting only a few times while
primarily using GyneGals for
reading other people’s posts. One participant disclosed that she was not
sure how to post so she was only “reading those things, but not posting
anything.” Although there were participants who posted only a few
times, getting a response to their posts helped them to feel supported
in problem solving. When asked about the helpfulness and relevance of
the information posted by others in the group, one participant said
“Some of it was and some of it wasn’t relevant to me. But there were
some instances where I could…whatever that person had posted, I could
kind of understand. So in that term, it kind of helped.” http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13187-011-0215-1/fulltext.html
I'd certainly hope that 'lurkers' can benefit from reading Macmillan's forum. There's a need for further research on this topic, though - perhaps Macmillan could try to find ways to investigate this?
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