Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Social lurking

Most people who have ever started a web community or discussion forum have probably noticed that the vast majority of contributions come from a small minority of dedicated participants. Most members are content simply to read and follow. It's especially true on Facebook in my experience. I have belonged to many Facebook groups who have numerous members (or rather people who have clicked the "like" button) but where almost nothing ever happens.We're all rather good at liking all sorts of causes but very few do much more than that. The fact is that although the social web has given everyone the chance to contribute, most people are quite happy simply being consumers.

That's the theme of an article on CNN, Many social networkers happy just to lurk. The number of people involved with social media is increasing dramatically but the number of people who actually create content remains stable. Maybe it's a case of TV syndrome. We've been brought up on the passive consumption of broadcast media so it's no surprise that we have so far viewed the net in the same way. The idea of everyone being creative and engaging in political and cultural discussion is very appealing but I think we have to accept that most people are very happy to simply watch from a distance; as they would at a physical meeting.

This reminds me a bit of when I was an English teacher many years ago. We had so-called conversation classes for people who wanted to discuss in English. They were often very tricky since many of the participants had very little to say and I struggled to create a relaxed atmosphere for discussion. It took me a while to figure out the problem but realised that many of them weren't particularly talkative in their own language. I felt that some possibly thought they could learn to be more social in English than they were in Swedish. Unfortunately if you are quite and thoughtful in one language you are unlikely to be different in a second language. The same applies in social media and the figures in the CNN article are simply stating the obvious.

The moral is possibly that when you have something to say you have plenty of opportunity to make yourself heard today. If you have nothing to contribute, then just sit back and enjoy what others are discussing. We all need to lurk sometimes.

No comments:

Post a Comment