Why do lurkers exist? The answer is simple: forum culture is intimidating.
If you’re the new kid in town, your first day at school is terrifying. You don’t speak the same slang as the other kids, they all have inside jokes, and they can be downright cruel to outsiders. Every different forum has it’s own language, it’s own rules, it’s own law.
But the with these intense forum cultures comes an amazing camaraderie. If you manage to breach the walls of a forum’s culture and are welcomed into the inner circle, the friendships you make can be life-long. And the truly fascinating thing is that you may never even see these people in the flesh.
Of course there are exceptions, I’ve been witness to many people meeting on my forums that have later married each other. I’ve seen forum members fly from all across the globe just to meet each other in real life just to get absolutely obliterated drunk. I’ve personally attended forum meetups in New York, Toronto, and London.
Why, after all, do lurkers lurk? Is it because they enjoy watching from behind the safety of the warm glow of their computer screens? No, they are lurking because they want to learn the culture before they dip their feet in the water. They want to be welcomed into the fold, and in my experience, once they’ve gotten their feet wet, they’re ready for a swim.