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The context of this question is social media. In light of the various unfortunate events that often seem to stem from internet echo chambers, I've been thinking of ways to mitigate the tendency of social media to create echo chambers.

Social media sites usually allow you to "subscribe" or "follow" someone whose activity you're interested in. However, both of these words have connotations that imply you agree with the opinions of this person. However, following a Twitter account is very different from following the teachings of Jesus. Subscribing to a YouTube channel does not mean you also subscribe to their school of thought. The use of these words on social media sites makes it unlikely for most people to "follow" or "subscribe" to anything they might disagree with, stimulating the creation of echo chambers.

In the interest of making the world a better place, I believe that we should promote thoughtful disagreement at least as much as we do mindless agreement. As a step towards that, something needs to replace the traditional concept of subscription on the internet. What word could be used to replace "follow" or "subscribe" on a social media site that doesn't have implications of agreement?

The options that are most viable to me right now are "listen," "observe," and "monitor." However, "observe" also has connotations of agreement, although maybe less so than the ones in place now. "Monitor," on the other hand, has an almost negative or overly cautious tone. "Listen" seems like it's in a good place, but for the sake of thoroughness, I'm submitting this word request here. The word should be a good fit for a social media site, and a verb will probably work the best, but it's not impossible for it to be a noun or other part of speech. For example, instead of "following" a user, you could add the user to a list of "<insert noun here>s"

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    I mean, "Watch" comes to mind. It seems neutral and observatory. Just watch something; see what it's about. But it also seems like "Watchlist" or "List of Watchers" is Orwellian
    – Carly
    Aug 6 '19 at 23:35
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    I disagree that either follow or subscribe means agreement. (In fact, stalkers follow people, but rarely in a friendly way.) You can easily do either of those things if you don't agree with someone and want to keep an eye on them to see what they get up to next. There are subjective interpretations being given to these words that don't seems supported to me objectively. Aug 7 '19 at 0:18
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    "Follow" and "subscribe" can mean agreement, but not in every context, and not in the context you are talking about. Even in pre-internet days newspaper subscribers would write angry letters to the editor detailing their disagreement with various articles.
    – nnnnnn
    Aug 7 '19 at 1:11
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Since you are searching for an internet phenomenon of observing without endorsing, I would suggest

lurking

The dictionary.com definition is:

adjective

  1. lingering and persistent, though unsuspected or unacknowledged. a lurking suspicion

  2. dimly perceived. a lurking shape half concealed in the shadows

In common usage, this has a negative connotations. Thieves and stalkers lurk, and a lurking ex-boyfriend is almost certainly unwelcome.

But the internet has changed lurking into an observer. Not an unwelcome observer, but a listener. Dictionary.com also provides an appropriate usage note:

In internet culture, it specifically refers to browsing social media sites or forums without engaging with other users.

A quick search for scholarly articles at scholar.google.com for social media lurking reveals that lurking is understood in academic circles.

  • Lurking as personal trait or situational disposition: lurking and contributing in enterprise social media (Proceedings of the ACM)
  • The power and the pain of adolescents’ digital communication: Cyber victimization and the perils of lurking (APA PyschNet)

In the latter case, the adolescent is observing someone's posts (but neither approving nor disapproving). This balance may be what the OP is searching for.

(Incidentally, the OP's suggestion observe is probably neutral, not approving. Think of UN observers or poll observers. They are neither approving nor disapproving of the national conflicts or voting procedures they are observing; they simply report.)

Here are some example usages for social media:

The WashPo journalists lurked on Trump's Twitter feed until it was taken down.

I'm not a BTS fanboy, but I am lurking on their official feed.

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  • Excellent! If I launch my own social media platform, I will certainly consider adding a "lurk" button. An additional set of metrics, including the "lurk-like ratio" will be available for a small fee. :)
    – Conrado
    Apr 28 at 11:22
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    Take a look at the scholar.google.com "social media lurking" search results, @Conrado. The articles in business journals make it sound like there would be willing payers of your small fee.
    – rajah9
    Apr 28 at 11:37
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What about 'spectate'? There could be a hint of the "I'm just here for the fireworks" about it, but there aren't many truly neutral alternatives. Or 'track'?

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