In Defense of Facebook Lurkers

Aren’t all members of Facebook, in some respect, lurkers and voyeurs? Yes, but some people are less noble about it than others.

In Defense of Facebook Lurkers by Nina BadzinA loose definition of the official Facebook Lurker: one who spends time on Facebook, but avoids making his/her presence known with comments or status updates.  TO GO ONE STEP FURTHER, the official Facebook Lurker is: a person WITH a Facebook account who blatantly mocks Facebook Users for posting information on Facebook, but acts as if he/she is never actually on the site.

So what’s the issue? Why do Facebook Lurkers need my defense? Here’s why: there is only one kind of person permitted to mock Facebook Users, and that is a person WITHOUT a Facebook account.  (Like my husband, who exercises that privilege often).

Some say the Lurkers (especially the ones who make fun of Users) should be forced to participate or sign off for good. Lucky for you Lurkers, I’m here to defend your equal rights to the magical site. But how do you know if you’re an innocent, infrequent User or a full-fledged Lurker?

If half of the statements below match your Facebooking behavior, then your right to secretly view everyone’s  information could be revoked.

  1. Although you never upload pictures, you’re quick to check for new shots of your ex. You also subconsciously or purposely check for anyone who has gained weight or lost all their hair since high school/college/[fill in the blank].
  2. You think, “obnoxious braggart” about anyone who uploads pictures from an obviously expensive vacation, but you look at those pictures anyway. Sometimes you look twice. (see #1)
  3. You find status updates extremely annoying. A part of you even hates people who write them. And yet . . . you scroll through your “friends” updates when you’re standing in line. Or when you’re bored at work. Or when your kids are busy (and by busy, I mean asking you to play Candyland for the 8th time in two hours).
  4. You’ll never write a comment on somebody’s wall unless it’s your real friend’s birthday. And even then you come up something like, “Can you believe I’m writing on your Facebook wall?!?!? Wow, look at me on Facebook!”
  5. Your lack of sharing on Facebook has become a genuine source of pride. You’re known to say things like, “I’m NEVER on Facebook,” your tone implying that people who write stuff on Facebook are losers and freaks with too much time on their hands. Except you seem to know what people from every walk of your current and former life ate for dinner the previous night and what the bridesmaids wore at your old math tutor’s second wedding.
  6. You don’t comment on pictures or updates or “like” them because then people would KNOW you’re on Facebook. And you like your privacy. You question why nobody else values privacy anymore. You miss 1999. And you think this whole Facebook thing is kind of stupid.
  7. BUT, there you are again, logged into Facebook. In fact, you were lurking there when you came upon this blog post.

Ultimately, if Users protected their privacy the way Lurkers do, there would be NOTHING to DO on Facebook.  Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Nevertheless, I’d like all the Users out there to cut the Lurkers some slack. (Alas, the part where I defend the Lurkers.) If everyone filled up the site like we Users do (yes, like most bloggers, I’m quite a User), we’d ALL be overwhelmed with information. In other words, nobody would see our shameless self-promotion. Then we’d have to figure out how to use Digg or StumbleUpon. And that would kill me–I mean us.

See, it takes all kinds to make the Facebook world go ’round. I, for one, appreciate Facebook Lurkers, and I will defend your honor until I overhear one of you making fun of ME.

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Nina is a freelance writer with work that has appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, Kveller.com, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Tcjewfolk.com, Writerunboxed.com, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines. She writes an advice column for The HerStories Project, participated in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, and she enjoys co-leading the book review site GreatNewBooks.org. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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41 Responses to In Defense of Facebook Lurkers
  1. Barbara King
    December 28, 2010 | 5:58 am

    You absolutely nailed it! Great blog!

  2. Amy Sue Nathan
    December 28, 2010 | 7:42 am

    It’s like driving (slowly) around the neighborhood, at night, and seeing what’s inside others’ homes if they happen to leave their curtains open. I mean, um, if there are people who might like to do that kind of thing. I wouldn’t know. :-/

    • Nina Badzin
      December 28, 2010 | 9:02 am

      Barbara–Thanks!!!

      Amy–You nailed it!

  3. annegreenwoodbrown
    December 28, 2010 | 8:32 am

    Oooo, Amy, I like the metaphor!

    Question, Oh Facebook Queen: My teenage daughter refers to Facebook “Stalkers,” as in, “MOM, I can totally tell you’ve been stalking my friends!!”

    In your expert opinion is there a difference between stalkers and lurkers and if so, which is more reprehensible, and which is simply good voyeuristic parenting?

    • Nina Badzin
      December 28, 2010 | 9:11 am

      ANNE: You raise a VERY good point! Are parents “lurking” on their kids’ FB pages or “stalking” their kids’ friends is 100% justified. And anyway, I’m not just talking about the concept of looking at peoples’ stuff . . . the issue here is looking at it, mocking it, and NEVER sharing anything of your own. (Which I KNOW you are not guilty of at all.) You’re in the clear!!!

      • Bubbe
        December 29, 2010 | 11:39 am

        It was much tougher to spy on your kids when you had to find their hidden journals.

  4. Jen Erickson
    December 28, 2010 | 8:39 am

    When the longest you’ve lived anywhere in you’re married exsistence is 5 years, Facebook is golden. I keep in touch with friends from when we lived in the UK, and stayed in contact with a wonderful, warm friend I’ve met only through an adoption group online. We have neen able to watch each other’s daughter’s grow for the past eight years. The world has gotten smaller and in what light we hold it up to colors how we choose to view it.

  5. Cym Kibort
    December 28, 2010 | 9:34 am

    Great post, I love your honesty and humor Nina! Spot on! Glad I’m not a victim of this latest crime!

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Erickson. Jennifer Erickson said: RT @NinaBadzin: My Defense of Facebook Lurkers: http://ow.ly/3v4np [...]

  7. Pop
    December 28, 2010 | 11:59 am

    I don’t know how I used to wait in long checkout lines before Facebook and Twitter.

    And I love how both of us don’t really know how to use Digg and SU, and yet we both have share buttons on our posts.

    • Nina Badzin
      December 28, 2010 | 1:07 pm

      Ha! So true on both counts. As for SU and Digg, *I* don’t know how to use them, but I keep hoping someone who does will click one of this little boxes. And then pixie dust will sprinkle each of my blog posts. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?

  8. 30ish Mama
    December 29, 2010 | 10:58 am

    I was just having this conversation the other day! I agree with you, the users need the lurkers. It’s a codependant relationship!

    • Nina Badzin
      December 29, 2010 | 12:25 pm

      Yup! A perfect example of symbiosis. :)

  9. margalit
    December 29, 2010 | 11:48 am

    Hi Nina
    I am a FB user. I openly use FB, and don’t understand the social pressure to say “I hate FB” and “FB is stupid.” I love FB! Maybe this is a topic for a separate blog, but the social competitiveness, unprofessional food pictures, close ups of engagement rings (when I am always single) and vague, come hither self indulgent despairing updates, even those I will tolerate for the very very superficial social bonding that occurs there. I am an extrovert, and while it sounds like I’m mocking the site like the Lurkers, I think honestly it’s a great diversion. Beyond that, it annoys the crep out of me. p.s. great blog Nina!

    • Nina Badzin
      December 29, 2010 | 12:27 pm

      Margalit! Thank you for commenting! Love what you wrote . . . and all so true. Without a doubt the updates that irk even me (a shameless updater) are ones that are vague and begging for follow up questions. Ones like this:

      “grateful”
      “fingers crossed”

      Glad you like the blog! :)

  10. Jack
    December 29, 2010 | 3:16 pm

    I use FB for business and friendship. It has proven to be useful, but at times it is really big time suck.

  11. Lawrence
    December 30, 2010 | 6:47 am

    HILARIOUS!!! Great blog and you are SPOT ON!!
    Could lurking on facebook be compared to picking up the phone at home in 1999 and you couldn’t tell if Mom or Dad…or brother or sister…were on listening?
    Oh 1999……

  12. Jennifer
    December 30, 2010 | 8:28 am

    Great post! Totallly agree with you that it is a symbiotic relationship. We both need each other to make Facebook interesting. Or is this a way to get me to stop commenting about you status updates that involve Glee?

  13. Nina Badzin
    December 30, 2010 | 2:36 pm

    Lawr- Glad you liked it!! :) I figured you’d appreciate it.

    Jenni- Until you accept Glee as a part of my life, you’re Gayle status is in question.

  14. galitbreen
    December 31, 2010 | 1:44 pm

    Fun post, Nina! I heart Facebook. Like a lot. So no worries about anti-FB comments from me! :)

  15. amber
    January 3, 2011 | 8:11 am

    The world needs lurkers. Of all types, I think. If nothing else, they swell our “friend” counts, right?

    • Nina Badzin
      January 3, 2011 | 2:15 pm

      GALIT: Each social media outlet has its use!

      And AMBER: Exactly! We need those lurkers! Who else is reading our stuff??? Thanks for visiting the blog!

  16. Shell
    January 3, 2011 | 1:36 pm

    Oh, I probably count as a lurker!!!

    • Nina Badzin
      January 3, 2011 | 2:15 pm

      SHELL- There’s no shame in it! This post is just calling for some self-awareness on all sides. ;)

  17. molly campbell
    January 3, 2011 | 11:57 pm

    I am a cross between a user and a lurker. I used to be a USER! But then I joined Twitter, and my world changed forever. All I want to know about anyone, really, is just a tiny bit of info. Your kids? cute (On Facebook, I would have to see multiple pics and a LONG description of the birthday party) Your breakfast? a bagel (I don’t really want to know that it was from the new Gluten Free bakery on Fourth Street, and that as a result of going gluten free you are experiencing less flatulence). Yes, with Twitter, I can be friends with thousands of people I really DON’T know, and I can exchange just enough information to make life interesting. I actually think Twitter was created for people with ADD. I don’t think I have that, though. molly

    • Nina Badzin
      January 4, 2011 | 10:59 am

      Molly- What an excellent assessment! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Twitter! And I’d basically abandoned Facebook once I really got my Tweet going. Of course when I started this blog in November (2010) I had to start pimping it so I’m back on Facebook in a big way. I “like” and comment on things far more than I post though. Hopefully the balance works out. Twitter is still my favorite though!

  18. Theta Mom
    January 4, 2011 | 6:18 am

    I am probably a combo of both – great post!

  19. liz
    January 4, 2011 | 9:47 pm

    I don’t know that I know any real life lurkers. My parents aren’t on it, and my brother is “philosophically opposed” to it…and then everyone else I know who HAS an account does seem to use it.

    • Nina Badzin
      January 5, 2011 | 11:26 am

      TM: We’re all combos!! Glad you like the post! :)

      LIZ: You’re lucky! My post was inspired by all the people I know who sort of make fun of people who write on Facebook with specific examples but OBVIOUSLY wouldn’t know who was on FB and what they wrote if they too weren’t on there reading it!!! But then I realized we need the lurkers too!! :)

  20. Amanda
    January 5, 2011 | 1:11 pm

    Hi Nina — I’m kind of a facebook lurker…and a blog lurker. But, my lurking without commenting comes more from lack of time. It gets sticky when a friend will tell me about their vacation, and I’ll say “yeah, I saw the pictures,” and I get the “well, why didn’t you “like” them look.” Oops…

    And, like Molly above, I MUCH prefer Twitter over Facebook. I go weeks without logging onto Facebook now. Twitter? …er, hours.

  21. seghni
    January 6, 2011 | 1:59 pm

    Love it..I’m on Twitter and I’m also a User….in fact I posted this to my Facebook page..

  22. Megan (Best of Fates)
    January 6, 2011 | 10:03 pm

    Hahaha – I would totally be a Facebook lurker, but I’m not friends with anyone I’d like to stalk!

  23. Nina Badzin
    January 6, 2011 | 10:44 pm

    AMANDA: Well you know I’m a total Twitter addict!

    SEGHNI: You did!!!? Thank you so much! As much as I love Facebook, they don’t let you see who “shares” your posts. So I can see that 45 people or more shared the post, but not WHO unless I happen to see it on one of my friend’s pages. And you for sure can’t see it if someone who isn’t your FB friend shared. Thanks again!

    MEGAN: Thanks for commenting on this post and today’s! I’m going to check out your blog now! See you there!

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  26. Alarna Rose Gray
    July 19, 2012 | 2:36 am

    Totally loved reading this post (and, ermm, thank you for defending us lurkers). The big problem I have with Facebook, Twitter and all social media is that I’m more of a listener than a talker. Whether that’s in real life or behind the safety of my computer screen, I just don’t have that much to say about myself (at least, nothing that is that clever or funny in 140 characters or so). But I enjoy others repartee, and if I have made fun of Facebook users, it is probably just from envy…:)

    • Nina Badzin
      July 20, 2012 | 2:56 pm

      You’re welcome! ;) The post is obviously a bit tongue-and-cheek (or is it tongue-in-cheek?) but in all seriousness, if EVERYONE filled out status updates ALL the time it would be impossible on there. So you need listeners and talkers, not just talkers.

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