Examples of lurking
A few weeks later, I send him and probably ten other people a Snapchat in which I’m wearing a sports bra and pants. I get a “Don’t you know I have a girlfriend?! This is totally inappropriate” message, and suddenly I’m blocked on all his socials. I’m guessing his girlfriend had seen him lurking and finally got fed up.
Where does lurking come from?
The verb lurk is an old one, dating back to the 1300s. Originally meaning “to hide” or “to lie hidden,” the term took on the additional sense of “to move about secretly” by the 1400s. Lurk received new life in the digital age, when people began lurking on early internet forums. This use is attested as early as 1983.
This lurking involves visiting a site and browsing its content, but never posting or commenting oneself. The practice has been formally studied since at least 2001. On the one hand, lurking has been shown to negatively impact one’s mental health and self-esteem. On the other, it can make socializing (at least passively) with online communities easier.
Sometimes I feel like socializing and tweeting. Other times (most of the time) I just enjoy lurking. I suck at social media
— Erik (Rideae) (@RideaeSSB) April 22, 2017
There was a spate of research and writing on lurking in 2015 and 2016, much of which focused on Facebook, where users can fall into a hole of idly looking at many different profiles without creating content of their own.
The so-called “1% rule of the internet” says 90-99% of users on a website are lurkers. Some social media websites combat lurking, intentionally or not, with features that reveal who is watching their posts (as on Instagram) or who views their profile (LinkedIn).
Who uses lurking?
Gathering information and feeling out a website’s vibe are all reasons people lurk, and this form of the practice is generally referred to neutrally or humorously.
So I’m definitely not a stalk-worthy person but I suddenly have a bunch of very random people lurking around my social medias lmao. It’s been a weird couple of days.
— Betty ™️ (@befernee) February 15, 2019
Online forums and social communities with niche interests tend to draw a lot of lurkers who don’t feel the need to contribute.
Want to know a surefire way to ensure I do not watch your stream? Greet me to the channel by name as soon as I come in. I will engage the chat when I feel comfortable doing so. Until then, just let me lurk. #Twitch #Mixer
— WolverineRising (@WolverineRising) February 9, 2019
Lurking became especially used, however, in the 2010s in the context of poking around on the social media of an ex-partner or other romantic interests. (Insta-lurking is a related popular term, specific to Instagram) This is also called orbiting, and is generally looked upon as creepy.
First ghosting, then they say orbiting: lurking in the "Views" and "likes" of Stories and photos. I'd like to also formally submit "submarining" in that spectrum, a term I heard from a friend where they disappear and resurface every few months. #tinder https://t.co/6sHg8xKj6M
— vancitylor (@lorialeo) February 7, 2019
ok i know im seriously late but I’ve been lurking around the darvey twitter sphere for so long it’s embarrassing and in the wake of the season 9 situation i need people to crash and burn with x
— mollie (@darveywaves) January 23, 2019
In the late 2010s, lurking has increasingly taken on a negative tone, implying one is being nosy or spying, like a digital form of eavesdropping.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of lurking like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of lurking that will help our users expand their word mastery.