Virginia Heffernan and the Death of the Forum
This is me.
I’m about to turn 17. That’ll put me at around ten or eleven years on the internet. My family used to have an old computer from the late 90s with a huge monitor and a massive tower that were both the same dated pearly white color. I used to spend all my time playing Flash games on a bunch of different sites, browsing forums for games and communities long since forgotten, and even tried my hand at uploading art to DeviantArt. This was all around 2007, and these years of my early childhood still created generally fond memories for me (if you discount the embarrassment I feel when I think back on the lengthy conversations I had with other random kids in the expanse that was 2007).
Despite all of the awkward moments and naïveté of that period I’m sure that all my peers can agree that it was a special time, one that can’t really be replicated with the internet culture that surrounds all of us today. That’s why your words on both the new worlds of the internet and the old, forgotten ones left behind struck me deeply. Your article in the New York Times “The Decline of the Online Message Board” recounts your experience on a board in 2004 centered around trying to conceive a child. The interactions between all of the people you saw were genuine on this small forum, from the exchange of tips to “‘good vibes’ and virtual hugs.” You describe the internet forum as an “endangered species’, and I know where you’re coming from. I occasionally search for the old message boards I used to inhabit and find that they have been closed for seven or eight years, or have far fewer active users than before. I feel the nostalgia that you reiterate when listing the names of sites that have been abandoned. The social media platforms of the future, like Twitter and Facebook, are all well and good, but I miss the tight-knit communities of a forum that can’t ever be replicated. Those won’t ever be replaced.
I would like to ask you if you have any modern counterpart to the forums of days past, or some spiritual successor to the message boards of old.