Ok I admit it… I was an Internet lurker. By this, I mean that I was one of those people who read discussions on forums and message boards but never participated. As someone who now enjoys making a contribution on the Internet, I thought I would take a look at some lessons I have learnt.

Firstly, was there anything wrong with being a lurker? My former lurking could best be described as benign (see the Wikipedia lurker page). That is, my lack of motivation to contribute can probably be explained by feeling uncomfortable expressing my thoughts online accompanied with a touch of laziness. I was certainly never a smart-ass or perverted lurker. So in this sense, my lurking never impacted negatively upon anyone else. That said, I have learnt the following:

Lesson 1: Lurking Reflects an Mindset of Taking Without Giving

I have come to see though that lurking is reflective of a certain mindset. This is a mindset of taking without giving anything in return. Just imagine if everyone on the Internet had this attitude. There would be no content as no one would be contributing anything! The Internet is what it is today because many people feel the desire to contribute, whether it be a big way (creating a popular site) or a small way (simply leaving a comment of appreciation after an informative or enjoyable post).

Lesson 2: You Gain a Greater Understanding of a Topic When You Write About It

I enjoy reading others’ posts and responses to them because I come into contact with new ideas, different viewpoints and personal experiences. I find that I get the most value from these when I write a response because the process of writing makes me fully reflect on my own ideas, viewpoint and personal experience.

Lesson 3: Synergy is a Great Thing

What I often find when reading forums or blogs is that the thread or comments can take on a life of their own. You never quite know where an active discussion between people from different countries, cultures, political leanings, etc may end up! Every so often I come across a thread or comments on a blog that reflect the idea of synergy. That is, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The individual contributions of a number of people create a greater understanding for the whole group.

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.