McNeil examines her own personal history using the internet and connects it to others', charting what it is that brought people online and what keeps us here even as the social equations of digital life—what we're made to trade, knowingly or otherwise, for the benefits of the internet—have shifted radically beneath us.
Lurking is far-reaching and ferociously smart, told from the hearts and minds of users rather than the profit and loss statements of tech conglomerates. In centering her research on the user experience of an ever-changing internet rather than the theatrics and myth-making of Big Tech, McNeil weaves a people’s history of the internet, making for a humane, big-hearted narrative of how the internet has changed—and how it changed us ... As the internet evolved, so too did the ways in which it organizes our lives, our time, and our senses of self. McNeil excels at drawing these nebulous concepts into sharp relief ... The success of Lurking isn’t just in its sharp insight into how the internet has changed us—it’s in McNeil’s evocative prose ... McNeil’s vision inspires hope that it can become a place where the term 'user-friendly' isn’t just a platitude—it’s a reality.
McNeil uses language that is incisive yet poetic to capture thoughtful insights about the internet ... speaks to the powerlessness we users can sometimes feel on these platforms, how difficult it can be to stay in control ... doesn’t just highlight the internet’s problems, it also voices [McNeil's] hope for an alternative future.
... amazing ... In fewer than 300 pages, Lurking offers readers not only some highly relatable snapshots of McNeil’s personal engagement with online life since the early 1990s but also presents a history of what that engagement has been like for all of us. And it’s all written without a trace of the Good-Old-Days nostalgia so often found in histories of this kind. Her book is that trickiest of things: a cautionary tale without a Golden Age ... does offer some stubborn hope for reclaiming a measure of, for instance, privacy and control of our own data ... No matter what the solution ends up being, McNeil’s debut is a classic piece of writing about the perils and promise of online life. Lurking belongs in the company of other classics such as James Gleick’s wise The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood from 2011, 2018’s Twitterbots: Making Machines that Make Meaning by Mike Cook and Tony Veale, and Shoshana Zuboff’s magnificent 2019 book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.Lurking will feel more personal to readers than any of those earlier books – and more powerful for that reason.