From internet lurker to content creator: 3 mindset shifts that helped me overcome my fear of publishing

Oct 24, 2021

For years, I seldom posted on social media platforms: nothing beyond random questions I had for niche subreddits or tweets to companies asking for customer service.

If this describes you too, we’re in good company. There's a principle in internet culture called the 1% rule: in any internet community, 99% of people lurk and only 1% add content. Researchers have studied this concept and found it to be consistent across many internet forums.

I started doing Ship 30 for 30 to force myself to publish more. It’s helped, but the real value from the course has been internal. From having to hit the “publish” button a bunch of times, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the fears that used to hold me back:

1. No one will engage with my content

The thought of pouring my soul into an insightful (to me) blog post only to watch it get 0 upvotes/hearts/unicorn points was tough to stomach. I know there are some people who naturally don’t care about this, but I’m not one of them, as much as I’d like to be.

The mindset shift

Not caring about engagement is a trainable skill. I’ve posted with the explicit focus on ignoring engagement, and I’ve noticed the sting of disappointment fade with every post I publish.

Also, if I never post, I’m guaranteed to get zero engagement with my ideas.

2. I’ll be wrong publicly

One of the toughest habits I’ve fought in writing is eliminating the phrases “I think”, “I believe”, or “I feel”. My writing implicitly reflects my opinions. I feared writing authoritatively because many of these opinions were possibly wrong, the result of either narrow experience or flawed thinking.

The mindset shift

Keeping my wrong opinions to myself doesn’t make them less wrong. And finding out they’re wrong is the first step towards correcting myself.

At work, I encourage people to be wrong openly and accept correction. Why wouldn’t I do the same on the internet?

3. Someone out there will judge me

I used to compose blog posts or even just comments on threads, only to hesitate and close my browser tab before posting. I constructed a narrative of someone:

  1. disagreeing with me
  2. posting a scathing reply
  3. going through my post history, continuing to judge me

The mindset shift

I guess I’m still scared of the off-chance of becoming Twitter’s main character. Barring that, there’s a tiny contingent of people who would bother judging an internet stranger based on a few opinions. Even if they do, why does it matter?

I’ll always have detractors even if I have good ideas. Might as well get used to it now!

My current fear

I’m still fearful when I hit publish, but it’s a fear grounded in reality. It’s that I am irrelevant and no one cares at all who I am and what I have to say. If I care about avoiding this fate, I have to keep hitting that publish button, putting myself out there, and figuring out what resonates with people.

If you’re like me, from one lurker to another, I hope you will too.