Bring Back the Humble Forum
26 Jul 2023
Social media is fucking us all up. I'd love to go back to the days of forums, where there was no popularity contests, or "influencers".
I've been ruminating about my use of social media a lot recently and to be honest, I'm still not that happy with it. I've taken a step back and automated social posting, which has really helped. But I do miss the good old days of the humble internet forum.
One could argue that a forum was the precursor to the social web we have today, but I don't think I agree. You see, most social platforms are a popularity contest - they provoke people to game the system to increase engagement and all that other shit.
My social networks of choice, Mastodon and Micro.blog, are better than most, but they're still a popularity contest.
Forums, on the other hand, were just a platform that facilitated the coming together of people with similar interests. There were no followers, no boosting, no influencers and no bullshit. It was lovely.
For the most part, forum users fell into a couple of buckets - people who wanted to either help others, or people who just wanted to chew the cud about a topic they're interested in.
Don't get me wrong, forums had some of the same problems that plague the social web today. Namely trolls and idiots, but that's par for the course for any place where a large number of people congregate. My forum experiences were almost exclusively positive.
This just wasn't a thing on the forums of old. New topics would start, they were chronological, and you could dip in and out of the discussions as you saw fit.
You could spend 5 minutes scanning through the topic titles of your favourite forums, or you could spend hours trawling through all the conversation. There was no algorithm trying to manipulate you; the choice was yours.
Even the advertising was better as they were usually relevant to the subject of the forum, so were actually useful. Plus, they didn't track you.
There were 3 forums that I frequented back in the day:
- ARRSE (The Army Rumour Service) - This forum is still going strong today and I really enjoyed it when I was a serving soldier
- MuscleTalk - I used to enjoy weightlifting and keeping fit, when I did, this forum was invaluable for me. Unfortunately it's become a weird blog thing now
- PinguyOS Forum - I ran PinguyOS for quite a few years, and I ended up becoming a moderator on their forum. I made a lot of friends during those years, and are some of the times I look back most fondly on the web
Unfortunately, dear reader, The Web is Fucked. But that won't stop me wishing for the golden days of the Internet. Yeah, it wasn't perfect, but it was a damned sight better than it is now.