By: Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
My name is Seth Culp-Ressler, and I am a social media lurker.
Day after day, I trawl through apps, websites, blogs and all manner of platforms designed to amplify the voices of the masses. Yet without fail, I end my day with the same amount of contribution to the haze as when I started — none. Or, at the very least, nothing significant.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my social media habits, and I’ve been struck by the odd disconnect between the amount of time I spend consuming the never-ending content produced through these platforms and the lack of response that I give in return. I wasn’t quite sure how I managed to fall into this incongruous cycle.
I won’t belabor the point, but it must be said that I am part of a generation that uses social media like a clock uses seconds. According to the Pew Research Center’s latest data from July 2015, 92 percent of individuals aged 18-29 use some form of social media. But what does that mean for me, a person who, at least to some degree, isn’t pulling my own weight?
I can’t say with complete confidence why others may be drawn to the life in the shadows, but I can give my own thoughts. The most obvious personal reason would be my own introversion. I’m sure there are plenty of introverts out there that love social media for the very reason that it allows them to be social in a more comfortable way, but that’s not the case for me. I like personal space online just as I like personal space in real life.
To truly understand, it may help to have some background on my use of the many-headed social media beast. I have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube and for commenting on various websites and blogs I frequent. And I browse most of them on a daily basis.
Contributing my own content, though? After looking back through each platform, it’s a bit shocking, even to myself. The last time I posted something on Facebook that wasn’t related to The Duke was almost six months ago. The last time I threw a simple picture up on Instagram was — I kid you not — 11 and a half months ago. I created my Twitter account in October 2013. Total tweets since then? Two.
I really only send Snapchats in response to ones I receive from others. I’ve commented on YouTube one or two times ever and the same with Reddit. All those blogs I read get a comment from me once or twice every couple of months. I’m even reluctant with giving out simple “likes,” “favorites” or whatever the platform uses. I wasn’t kidding when I said I never contribute. I am a lurker, always in the shadows but never seen.
It’s less creepy than it sounds, I promise.
Now as with everything these days, this is not an original thought. It turns out I may not be the only one in my reticence to contribute. Vision Critical conducted a study last year of social media habits and found that around 52 percent of users fall into the category of “lurkers.”
Apparently I’m not alone.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that some amount of my reluctance comes from fear. It may sound strange, but I think part of me is afraid to shout into the void because there’s a good possibility that the only response I’ll get is my own echo. In many ways (though, admittedly, not entirely), social media is about validation. There’s no need to stress about why nobody liked your picture or favorited your tweet if you never created one in the first place.
Interestingly enough, this fear even extends to sites like Reddit and others with anonymous commenting platforms. No one would have any idea who I am, but I’m still extraordinarily hesitant to put anything out there. It fascinates me.
It’s safe to say that my habits aren’t changing anytime soon. Most likely I’ll end up a lurker for life, scrolling quietly until the end of time. I’d wager that’s true for more people reading this than you might think. Actually, saying that, I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this social media use conundrum. In fact, why not let me know on Twitter (@sethwcr).
Who knows, maybe I will even muster up the courage to respond.