Active participants and lurkers in online discussion groups: An exploratory analysis of focus group interviews and observation

Tali Gazit, Jenny Bronstein, Yair Amichai-Hamburger, Noa Aharony, Judit Bar-Ilan, Oren Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Introduction. While online discussion groups have become powerful tools to enhance open democratic discussions, the literature shows that only a marginal percentage of individuals are active participants. The majority of users read the content but do not participate (lurkers). The aim of this research was to better understand the psychological and environmental factors impacting the online participation of active participants and lurkers. Method. Four focus groups were conducted in which participants were asked to describe their participation behavior in online public discussions. Analysis. The data were analysed using thematic analysis that facilitates identifying, analysing, and reporting patterns or themes within data. Results. Regarding psychological factors, findings show that active participants seemed to be more extroverted and open than lurkers, they felt they had better control over the online environment, a higher ability to influence, higher self-efficacy and a greater need for gratification. Regarding environmental factors, both active participants and lurkers reported they need a place to express themselves, need the content to be emotionally triggered and relevant, and need a familiar environment. Conclusions. Findings demonstrated that both personality and environmental factors play in the adoption of the role of lurker or active participant in online communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology & Space of Israel.

Publisher Copyright:
© the authors, 2018.


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