Forums vs Facebook

Jun 7, 2013
The Reptile Report
by Editor in Chief

The Reptile Report - Forums are dead! That’s what they say. Or, at least in the process of dying, they might amend, if you point out that there are plenty of busy sites out there. Actually, there are a LOT of busy sites out there, and they are thriving. Individual sites may experience slow-downs from time to time. That is cyclical, depending on things like animal breeding cycles, seasons, school calendars, weather, or holidays. There are a lot of reasons for forum traffic to ebb and flow. Some individual sites may die a slow death due to mismanagement. Apathy in the administrator or senior management is bad for a site. But the traffic you might witness at any given site is not an indicator of the overall health of forums in general. Take it from someone who must scan through thousands of new threads every day, they’re doing just fine.

But, I will say that I’ve seen a significant trend toward the usage of Facebook. I’ve seen individuals I know personally go from being active forum participants to using Facebook exclusively and abandoning all previous forum ties. I have to admit, I don’t get it.

I mean, I do see the appeal of Facebook. On a forum, you typically only have that site’s membership as your audience. On Facebook, you may have a much wider audience. The fact that half that audience probably has little or no interest in your reptiles can be a good thing or a bad thing. On a forum, you have to work within that site’s individual set of rules. For some, having to pay attention to what sort of language they use is quite a burden. On Facebook, you have a lot more freedom to just do your thing, without worrying about someone else’s rules. Except Facebook’s rules, which sometimes make sense and sometimes don’t, and often can’t be appealed. On a forum, you have to deal with the drama queens and trolls. On Facebook, you don’t have to…oh wait…the drama queens and trolls are there as well. Drama and trouble makers will be found anywhere humans congregate and communicate, no matter what the format is.

Communication on Facebook is instant. You say it and it’s out there for the world to see. And if it’s something interesting, the feedback to it can be instant as well. That’s gratifying. The problem with all that instant-ness is that someone else’s instant comment/picture/video/link/share comes out right after yours. Communicating on Facebook is like throwing a rubber ducky into a fast moving river. Anyone who happens to look at just the right moment will see it, but just as quickly, it shoots on down the river and vanishes. And once it vanishes, it’s gone, buried beneath a swarm of hundreds of thousands of identical rubber ducks.

Have you ever seen something on Facebook that tweaked your interest, but you didn’t have time to look at it right then? You think, “Oh cool! I’ll come back to that later.” And when you finally get back, you can’t find it anywhere? Even if you can remember whose page it originated on, you may not be able to find it easily. Facebook has almost no searchability (yeah, I’m making up words as I go along) and therefore, whatever you post there, no matter how good it is, has an extremely limited shelf life.

On the other hand, the forum interface (most of them, anyhow) is designed to organize and save everything in its relevant categories. Search functions are usually robust and easily used. It’s a very simple process to view all the new content since your last visit. Threads created on a healthy forum can be viable for months, and sometimes even years. When you share valuable information on a forum site, you’ll be helping far more people than you’ll ever know.

The main drawback to forums is their limited audience. But The Reptile Report has changed that and removed that drawback. There are a small handful of sites that we don’t patrol because those site owners asked us not to, for reasons known only to them. For the rest of the sixty-odd sites we visit on a daily basis, if you post up something important, interesting, or just really nice to look at, chances are we’ll highlight it for the rest of the herping community. We do scan Facebook and numerous other sources as well, but that “rushing river” nature of Facebook means that we can only capture a tiny fraction of what we might want to highlight on the TRR pages.

Facebook has its place; I don’t doubt that. It’s a fantastic tool for rapid dissemination and promotion either of yourself or your favorite causes. But I highly encourage everyone to give forums another look and consider using them for the fantastic tool that they are as well, a solid foundation to ground yourself on, where the valuable information you have to share can be reached by so many beyond the immediate audience.

One last thought: Whether you’re posting on Facebook or one of the numerous awesome forum sites out there, keep in mind that the TRR editors are only human. We work our asses off and do our best to bring you the best. Please don’t take it personally if we miss something. We have a submission link at TRR that we encourage anyone to use to submit links to information that we might have missed.

You don’t have to be a big time breeder or a political power house to be a critical part of our amazing herping community. Get out there and be a part of a local herp forum. “Local” in this sense meaning whichever one is closest to your heart. Be a friend and neighbor, help the newbies, and care for each other; it’s the mortar that keeps us strong.

Judy Clothier
Chief Editor of The Reptile Report

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