Let’s Look at Facebook versus Forums
What hath Facebook wrought?
It’s a Facebook versus Forums smackdown!
Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. According to Oberlo, Facebook has about 2.80 billion monthly users and 1.84 billion daily users.
In contrast, according to Worldometers, 1.439 billion people live in China, and 1.380 billion live in India. The US has a bit over 331 million in population.
Hence, daily Facebook usage is the entire population of China + the entire population of the United States. And another 7 million people on top of that. So, Paraguay.
It is the 800 pound gorilla of the internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. So one of those areas is in the area of internet forums.
Facebook and a forums site like Able2know
Facebook hits all forum sites and not just A2K. For years, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. In addition, I hear about this same kind of drop off in other areas.
Facebook has its fingers in a lot of pies, and it is only trying to get into more and more of them.
Everybody get in the pool
So there are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One concerns the shallow end of things. You trade information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.
The other side of things is deeper. Because here is the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird. For you need time to develop that kind of trust. Furthermore, truly, you have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.
Swimming with Facebook
Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with high school classmates or the like. A Star Wars groups, for example, might ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?”
George Takei has mastered these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes). Because these constitute the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.
Facebook versus Forums – where Facebook Wins
Topics about one’s favorite song go better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting YouTube videos is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings.
Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all. Partly this happens due to Facebook’s real names policy. Also, more people tend to use their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.
Facebook versus Forums – where Forums Win
What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc.), and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer or wider discussion.
All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration: even now, a lot of people still find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.
Swimming with Forums
For the deep end, it makes sense to collect into forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. And that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.
Forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona.
This is because Facebook far too closely parallels to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your high school cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.
The Endless Online Christmas Brag Letter
And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes or chat), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.
But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.
Facebook versus Forums: the Future
My crystal ball says Facebook is only going to get larger and more complicated. And advertising and other ways of keeping forums open is only going to get harder. Unless Facebook finds a way to take a deep dive into topics – and make it easier for people to find their way back after a day or two – then I fear a form of interaction may eventually be lost forever.
That is, unless Zoom calls and the like can rise to such a challenge. In and among the fluff and Zoombombing and other annoyances and weirdnesses, perhaps that’s the way to go. Because I fear that forums are going to bite the dust before 2030, if not sooner.
There is room for both types of interactions. Facebook versus forums doesn’t have to pick a winner. The internet is a mighty big tent. But economics and sheer numbers might award a prize anyway.