- by Barbara Meyers
If you belong to a writers’ group, or any group with an internet presence for that matter, there is probably a discussion loop to which you have access. Being on the loop is usually optional and whether or not to post on it is your choice. I’ve discovered that posts are often made by the same few individuals and there are an awful lot of lurkers like me. We belong, we may follow the comment threads, but we rarely if ever post. If we do, we often precede our contributions with an unnecessary “coming out of lurk” announcement.
Since I’ve done no research on this subject, I will confine my comments to my own experiences. Below are the reasons I’ve been lurking for a long time:
1. I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation.
This is a great reason not to post, because truly, if you have nothing new to add, why bother regurgitating the same comments ten others have already made?
2. I don’t know enough about the subject.
3. The subject doesn’t interest me.
4. The subject doesn’t apply to me.
5. I don’t understand what they’re posting about.
Items 2-5 may occur because you are part of a group with varying levels of professionalism and experience.
6. I don’t have time.
When links and loops were new to me I thought I had to read everything. I couldn’t understand how these writers had time to read all those posts and then come up with such articulate and often lengthy responses. Where did they find time to write?
I soon discovered I didn’t need to read everything. I glanced through the post topics and the authors and I could tell from those whether there was anything of interest to me.
This is easy to do if you’re on digest because then you can skip to the post you want to read. If there’s nothing for you, hit the delete key.
7. People will think whatever I say is stupid.
This is perhaps the biggest reason I don’t post. I would often write (brilliant) posts and re-read them and then I’d delete them before I sent them.
My perception was that no matter what I post or how articulate I am, there’s always someone on that loop willing to correct me, to point out the error of my thinking, to tell me why I’m just plain wrong or not very bright. Sadly, for a long time, I think I agreed with them, even though I knew better.
More recently, however, I’ve decided the heck with them. The world is filled with bitter, angry, self-righteous people. Some of them are writers and some of them post regularly on those loops. Some of them think they know everything, but surprise, surprise, they don’t.
They may be more published than me, have more experience than me, more sales, more everything than me. That doesn’t necessarily make them smarter or more knowledgeable about every single topic.
Although I’m sure it’s due to my middle-aged out-of-balance hormones more than anything else, I’ve decided I’m not going to take it any more. Recently I crept out of lurk mode to post something I thought was relevant to the entire group on a writer’s loop and yes, was almost immediately slammed with one of those comments. Usually, I let it go, but this time I posted a reply, cringing as I hit the send key, ready for a further barrage of posts that might say different things but were all designed to get one message across to me. That being, “You’re an idiot.”
Imagine my joy, however, when someone in a much more knowledgeable position of authority backed up little ole me! Ha! I was right. Not that she’ll apologize, but the other poster was wrong. So there. Happy dance!
I therefore encourage all you lurkers to come out of hiding when you’ve got something to say. It doesn’t have to be completely original, but there’s a place for your opinion, your voice, your special take on subjects presented. Don’t be afraid and don’t take it personally when you feel slammed by a know-it-all type. Just as there are no stupid questions, if you’re thinking it, many other people are, too. They might be afraid to post that exact same thought or idea, so you have to do it. Then you’ll discover how many others agree with you.
Like e-mail, posting has no tone and we’d do well to remember that. But since posting isn’t anonymous, one other thing we’d all do well to remember is something my father used to quote: “Be kind to the people you meet on your way up the ladder because you’ll probably meet them on your way back down.”