Friday, October 27, 2006

Are forums a waste of time?

In general Internet forums seem to be a royal waste of time, and remind me of the proverbial myriad monkeys at keyboards: occasionally random pieces of intelligence appear, but mostly producing drivel.

The men's forums are often a little better than other forums, and there are some which can be interesting to read. Nevertheless, even at their best, I can't escape the feeling that they waste the time and energy of men who could otherwise be working away at things that would have a bigger impact.

One way in which forums ARE useful is in generating a sense of camaraderie amongst men, who frequently claim that prior to their discovery of the men's sites, they thought that "I was the only one having these thoughts." Additionally, they are good for hammering out arguments and sharing information. Occasionally they have even been useful in co-ordinating assaults on our enemies on other forums. However, I have to say that just often, or more often, when someone suggests some REAL activism on a forum, the weight of other members falls down on him and smothers him with reasons why he SHOULDN'T. I feel fairly confident in saying that many an activist's energy has been eaten up in this way by the very forums that you would think would be supporting him. Also, just the shear amount of energy spent by many men on such forums represents a sort of pipe-leak in the system, bleeding away the pressure that could be directed more profitably.

Another reason why I think forums are a waste of time is that many of them are poorly designed, and have a revolving-door quality about them: new people constantly coming in and the same old arguments have to be made again and again for their benefit, whereas one argument posted prominently on a website would achieve the same effect at a fraction of the overall expenditure of energy. Essentially excessive forum posters are acting like foot soldiers when they could be pilots of their own jet aircraft carrier nuclear warheads!

Where this works best is where new men are coming into a forum regularly and get to discuss afresh the issues. This situation provides the sort of individualised interaction that a website cannot, and represents a sort of ministry. Where it becomes a drain of resources is on those forums that welcome the opposition, under some pretence of being balanced, and the men are forced to constantly use their energy to defend their position. This kind of defensive behaviour is probably the worst consequence of forums. Limited debate with the enemy has obviously been of benefit. Standing toe-to-toe with our foes and trading blows with them has taught us an enormous amount, particularly in terms of the locations of their weak spots, and indeed the fact that they have so many. But these benefits soon reach a point of diminishing returns at whose juncture compulsion takes over, and the man feels he has to go on defending his position, beyond learning anything new or contributing to any significant and lasting result.

And even when great posts are made on forums, they often soon get buried under the weight of new posts (a problem which is admittedly circumvented on those forums well designed enough to prominently 'file' good posts or reference-worthy information for rapid access).

Lastly, there is the problem common to most forums that unpleasant and often pointless conflicts break out, and you get the distasteful situation of one man often finding himself under attack from a mob of others, often unfairly. Such battles can get quite personal and are hard to simply walk away from. They are psychologically draining and hard to forget, making the man go back constantly to check what else has been posted.

Undoubtedly there have been some benefits to the men's forums, but I would say they have been vastly outweighed by the downsides, and overall, I believe, the men's forums have delayed progress that could have occurred if the same levels of energy had been funneled into creating and linking up many men's websites and blogs.

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