Killing forums and the rise of Facebook groups

Introduction

I recently left a photography forum I have been a member at for 10 years. I’ll be honest and say I got sick of the constant snipes at mirrorless by DSLR users. This in itself wouldn’t have been that big a problem except if anyone dared to raise a harsh word about their gods of DSLR, it was immediately flagged as trolling resulting in warnings. Double standards from the mods who were, surprise-surprise, you guessed it, DSLR users.

The final nail in the coffin for me was a thread about the new Nikon mirrorless, and whilst I have no interest in Nikon I was interested to see the somewhat predictable behaviour of the DSLR users. For some obscure reason when a mirrorless post appears, DSLR users feel the need to go in and berate mirrorless despite having no interest in the systems.

Numerous users entered the thread and commented on the fact that mirrorless was of no interest to them – an incredibly helpful addition to the conversion, like randomly walking around a pub telling people who hadn’t try to hit on you that you weren’t interested in them to start with.

Some entered the thread for the sole purpose of saying that they didn’t like EVF’s – another very helpful opinion and all the users of the thread felt much better knowing they felt the need to add this valuable comment to the thread by stating they didn’t like something which one would only expect to find on a mirrorless, and not just any mirrorless, but one they hadn’t actually tried so they didn’t actually know if it’s any good.

These kinds of comments went on and on. Pointless, petty additions which seems to have little purpose other than to make the author of the comments feel like they had provided a valuable contribution to society by expressing their opinion.

Now, this isn’t an attempt pick on DSLR users, they aren’t all like this, it was to highlight the growing trend where people confuse the right to have an opinion with the right to be a complete douchebag (I apologise but the word douchebag will be used extensively in this article to describe these offenders). I recently saw a Fujifilm user ask a question about Fujifilm AF and how they could get better autofocus results. Someone responded back with “Buy a Sony”.  Now technically it’s a valid answer and again you could argue that he is offering his opinion, but it’s not very helpful when you consider that most people don’t change their systems regularly and that wasn’t the answer the original poster was looking for.

It’s one of these occasions where you have to question whether your opinion is adding any value to the discussion or not. In the old days, when people were having discussions face to face, they would generally nod their head, listen and walk away. If someone was telling them about tennis, they would typically nod their head and choose not to talk to the person again, rather than saying “sorry, tennis is the most boring sport on this planet, I have no urge to continue this conversation”.

In the same way, if someone posts a bird photo and you respond for the sole purpose of telling them you don’t like birds, you add no value to the discussion, when you could simply ignore the thread altogether. Again, some like to argue that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but being entitled to your opinion doesn’t make you any less of a douchebag for expressing it.

There are a lot of things I can legally say and do in public that still make me a douchebag. I can legally go to the front of a queue of cars and push in if there isn’t a solid line, but legal doesn’t = civil. I can legally take photos of other people’s kids in public, but that would make me a creepy. People have become so dedicated to enforcing their rights that they have forgotten that rights don’t need to be enforced ALL the time.

The death of forums and the rise of fanboys and Facebook?

What has this got to do with the rise of facebook groups? I think this kind of online behavior and the broad nature of forums is the exact reason that people now feel the need to go to more specialised groups. I think people have become tired of users who feel the need to provide irrelevant “opinions” under the guise of “freedom of speech” and now choose to go to places where they don’t have to deal with this.

If I go to the Fujifilm group, I don’t have to worry about a DSLR user “expressing his opinion” by telling everyone he/she hates mirrorless when I ask a question about Fujifilm AF. I’m not trying to get a skewed perspective of the world, I’m not trying to be a fanboy, I’m trying to have a discussion that doesn’t having that annoying person who mistakes rights for common courtest and I’ve noticed the aggression levels in more specialised groups is lower.

So, are forums dead?

I don’t think forums are dead as a whole but I do think if their owners want them to survive, they will need to start moderating with an iron fist and apply a “no douchebags” policy. There will be the freedom of speech advocates that argue you are impeding a people’s right’s but as a forum owner or mod, I don’t think we should be using freedom of speech to protect douchebags who believe that freedom of speech is an open invitation to be rude to people.

So in closing, all I can say is try to make sure you aren’t that person that people get annoyed about. If you’re expressing your opinion for the sole purpose of doing it, you probably are.

3 Comments

  1. While I think there’s much truth to your statements of current forums v. Facebook groups specialized content, I fear for that content increasingly moving to such a problematic platform designed from the start for increased douchebag behavior.

    Like

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