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Philosophers and critics of social media warn us of a lurker's complex: the unsettling belief that "real" communication is happening on someone else's blog or Facebook page. But this complex is hardly new. In popular works of fiction, the bored postal clerk has been a recurring symbol of the alienated, modern gossip hound stuck on the fringes of someone else's discourse. Rereading these post office novelists can help us clarify and critique our own online behaviors.