Confessions of a Lurker

I must confess… as a Technology Integration Specialist, I tend to gain all of my information the old fashion way.  I read articles, attend conferences or learn from peers.  Offline, I am a extremely social and would categorize myself as a people person.  I think this is one of the reasons why I have a hard time connecting and starting that initial online connections because I naturally connect best face to face.  Being a social person, I have found that online courses have always been difficult for me and now that I am embarking on this COETAIL journey, I realize that is a challenge and a huge learning curve.  My online presence is a direct reflection of my offline presence. While reading Living and Learning with New Media, the description of teenager use of new media sounded like a read of my own personal online use.  I am “always on” and my online presence are an extension of my offline friendships and connections.

After reading the initial definition of a lurker on Wikipedia, I started to ask myself, am I a true lurker?  I have been lurking on a few communities that are interest based.  I find that they are a place where I can gather ideas or recommendations but just like the rationale in Wikipedia, I don’t always participate for a few different reasons.  I am afraid that I will say something that has already been discussed or I am afraid of rejection from the community.  I was starting to feel a bit ashamed of my lurking way but after further reading, categorizing myself as a lurker wasn’t that easy.  Jeff Utecht argues in What Does it Mean to Disconnect?, that there are two camps: consumer or creator.  Was I a consumer or a creator?  Since moving to China, I haven’t used twitter at all even though when I did it was mostly digital noise, a phrase I just learned from William Ferriter’s Why Teachers Should Try Twitter.  After reading Joel Bevan’s post  I  am a lurker… but I’m changing, I took stock of my social media and I would argue that I’m a creator on Instagram and Facebook.  I wouldn’t even consider myself a lurker on twitter as I don’t use it ever but I’m not consistent in my posts since I live in China and require a VPN to post to all of these platforms.   I think there’s more than being a consumer or a creator.  I think it’s still important to be a participant.  According to Wikipedia, a participant is someone who doesn’t create any posts but will participate by liking something.  This cycle of being a consumer to participant to creator doesn’t have to be cyclical but a we can go in and out of all of these roles depending on our level of understanding and confidence in a particular subject matter.

The internet is a mass of connections and a mass of content.  Twitter is a great example.  You can connect to people as well as connect to very specific interests.  I have heard about how twitter is a great resource for the educational tech community but as the Tech. Integration Coordinator, how can I know what is appropriate and not appropriate for my students until I become well versed as a digital learner too?

In the context of my students though, how can I help them overcome the hurdles that I’m feeling?  I need to be the first example and be a model on how to become more of a creator and less of a consumer.  I don’t have a professional online presence or community so how can I keep up to date on the latest research and technology for my students?  The more limited I am, the more limited they are.  With COETAIL’s push, I’m hoping that I can finally take the plunge and get connected online professionally.

3 thoughts on “Confessions of a Lurker

  1. Hi Boramy- I enjoyed reading your reflective post this week because I see many similarities in our thinking. In the ‘real world’ I tend to be a very social person, and stepping into virtual spaces to connect is sometimes challenging for me. I would also totally agree with you in noting that there’s more than consumption or creation, and that we naturally flow between consumption, participation and creation depending on the topic’s relevance at any given time.
    As I read through this post, it made me a bit nervous to think of how my online presence might be impacted as I move to China next year. I have been assured that it won’t affect me all that much, but it’s a big uncertainty in my mind still.
    On a final note, I truly hope that COETAIL is the push you need to embrace Twitter because it’s been an absolute game changer for me. The access to ideas, people, and resources is mind blowing (and sometimes overwhelming) and something that challenges my thinking and teaching practice daily. The transition from lurker to participant and creator awaits you on Twitter!

  2. Thanks for a great personal reflection on how you lurk. I can identify with how you get information as I often do the same and I also think of myself as more of a face-to-face communicator rather than someone who does it the digital way of blogging and commenting and tweeting. I also wonder if people who are maybe social interactions maybe don’t need as many online interactions and vice versa?

    In an article in the Guardian about online personas I read a passage by William James who suggests “we have as many personalities as the number of situations we are in. Although our digital identity may be fragmented, it seems clear that our various online personas are all digital breadcrumbs of the same persona; different symptoms of our same core self. We are still far from the development of a Shazam for the soul, but the more we can integrate and synthesize our segregated online data, the more complete our picture of ourselves will be.” We sure all have a lot of hats to wear in real life as well as in our online lives. It gets even scarier as it speculates more about how businesses can use our online personas to aid in marketing and curate products just for “you”

    Your thoughts adding the role of participant in creating and consuming is a thoughtful idea. I agree that it doesn’t have to be cyclical, it can just be something dictated by your comfort, knowledge, and maybe even motivation level. If you are liking, retweeting, etc are you contributing or just semi-passively observing.

    I wonder if lots of teachers are sometimes more prone to being lurkers because many of us are so generalist in a lot of our practice and don’t have a lot of specialized knowledge about some topics (except pedagogy of course), I sometimes feel that way.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful and reflective post Boramy. It’s apparent that you really put some thought and consideration into your online presence and your current level of participation. I am glad you see the value in social networks for professional connection and learning and I am sure that COETAIL will be a great push for you in realizing the power a PLN can have. I didn’t participate in Twitter at all before I was a COETAIL-er but it has proven to be the most valuable professional resource I have ever cultivated. I gain ideas, inspiration, resources, connections, and confidence through sharing my own creations. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing my job without it. OK…i’ll get off my soapbox now. We will all have different levels of participation in our PLN’s and it all comes down to balance and what works for each of us. I can’t wait to see how your journey continues!

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