Most of my social interactions took place on forums or chat rooms during my high school years. There were acquaintances in real life, or as I would go on to refer to them later in life: A short list of people I tolerated. But there was very little I had in common with them. Oh, okay, there was chess club… if the only thing I wanted to have in common with someone was the ability to play chess.
The Internet offered more opportunities to seek out and interact with people who not only shared similar interests, but actually be able to discuss those interests. For the reason I was a member of quite a few different forums over the years, because it was increasingly difficult to find people in real life that wanted to talk about Babylon 5, Animorphs, Star Trek, etc.
Recently, I have been dropping the number of forums I spend time on and I hardly every enter a chat room these days, except to verify that there is definitely no one else using it. Social media seems to have had a hand in this.
Like many web comic artists, Fred Gallagher (Piro) of Megatokyo has a forum at the website for his long running comic of the same name. The forum was a great way for fans of the comic to discuss the series and it gave them a common venue to share information and questions on other topics as well. In the website’s early days, that forum had a stream of users around the clock, the majority of whom were not actually fans of the comic, since the bulk of the forum was devoted to other topics as well.
In recent years, you’re lucky to find one new topic. However the comic and all of the related media and products that resulted from the large fan ship is still going strong and it has been the artist’s bread and butter for a decade and a half, so what’s different?
Again, like a lot of artists, Piro has been using social media like Facebook and Twitter to keep his fans abreast of new developments like updates to the comics and to his current project: The Visual Novel. It’s the same fan base. Megatokyo is still going strong, but the medium Piro has been using to communicate with his fans has changed making the forum more of a courtesy than a necessity.
This seems to happen a lot with any forum that has a specific theme in mind. I refer you to the example of the chess club. If the only thing a group of people have in common is chess, then eventually you’re going to get bored with that group of people because unless the theme of the club is “Selective Mutism Chess”, then eventually you’re going to want to have a conversation or two over a game.
Forums can be a great place to pimp my blog. By using the blog in my signature, every time I contribute to a discussion, I increase the chances of someone taking an interest and following the link. But nearly everyone and their uncle has a blog so there has to be another compelling reason to stay there, which is mainly a consistent flow of users.