Uniting millions of fans across an unfathomable number of different interests, forums once were the heartbeat of the internet. My question is, are they still? If not, what exactly happened and can they ever again reign supreme over social networking?
Before we move forward, heed this warning; don’t take this out of context, it isn’t about bitterness, it’s mostly nostalgic. Now, allow me to tackle social networking a little bit.
I can’t imagine how social networking has come to surpass the common community of these forums I would regular. Sure, they’re neat in aspects, but in my opinion, they’ve completely dumbed-down the cyber experience. That’s an experience that I sorely miss. Where new people to the internet (noobs) once headed to a search engine to find like-minded folk, they now often look to Twitter to get their information and commentate. Where’s the heart, I ask? Not only does that not actually pull us together, more often than not, all you’ll see are hashtags and meme’s completely clogging the personal experience that could be involved. Seriously, 140 characters is honestly nothing more than a text and we all know how horribly wrong texting can go. I can’t even say what I want to say in one text most times… I’m admittedly wordy. The closest Twitter comes to being community-like is when people hashtag the same thing enough to make it a top trend. But are we actually talking to each other in that scenario or are we all more or less posting our thoughts as individuals in a very disconnected fashion? In a forum, in a threaded topic, one person will start the conversation and others speak personally with all others involved while still acknowledging the original poster and their thoughts. There’s no need to use hashtags once you decide what you’re there for, you hop in a topic and meet new people, share questions, opinions and interests. You, believe it or not, actually get to know people during the process of not being limited to 140 words and hashtags. Imagine that.
While Twitter may seem simpler and cutting-edge, it’s essentially a watered down, self-centered way to never really get to know anyone. Yes, self-centered. We tailor our page to show what we want, dress up our profiles to look how we choose and ultimately expect that it will be in some form interesting enough so that others ‘follow’ us and entertain our tweets. Is it not a close equivalent to writing on a bathroom wall and wondering if anyone will write back? We’re putting a comment out there wondering if it’ll ever even be noticed. Sure, on a forum that happens, but more often than not, it IS noticed and is responded to.
So moving on, I’m sure the readers here are of all different ages, so let me ask you, what forums do you visit? Do you prefer the personal experience or is social networking more your thing? Why? I legitimately like to hear why people go those different directions. I understand that you can use social networking for an adequate personal experience, but for anyone who has ever forum-frequented, you’ll know that there is a huge difference in the flow of things and that it lacks the feeling of community. It’s very much like standing in a crowd on Twitter where-as a forum is much more of a convention-style experience.
All this comes about because there are literally over 20 forums that I used to regular and even the ones that are still going are not pumping out threads and posts the way that they used to. Some aren’t moving at all. Forums that were once filled with life have come to a motionless stop. Some might say it’s because there are better ways to communicate while others may disagree. I clearly disagree but that alone certainly won’t keep these forums I used to post at every day alive.
With all of this in mind, are websites that don’t sell you products, review those products or search those products in line to be the next thing out? With new sites popping up every day offering you only a slight difference in content from the hundreds to thousands of other sites like them, what will make some timeless and what will send others packing? Much like forums, sites can and will stand the test of time if they’re properly attended to with a centralized subject and people who care enough to talk about it. Though there may be many similar in about every field, any site that cares enough about it’s content can survive. Where social sites are driven completely by attention span, truly focused sites and blogs and forums can withstand all of the social networking comings and goings.
But hey, they’re both good for their intended purpose, I just hope that social networking gets some perspective on how skinny it is. Nothing replaces real life socializing. Sometimes that’s for the better, sometimes for the worse. At least on Twitter you get the opportunity to tell people like Bob “Sparkplug” Holly how his 1990’s WWF Racing Team leotard changed your life (seriously though, he’s good people and those were different times).