Before Social Media, There Were Forums

 

Since the unintended fiasco with the Queen, I spent a lot of time on the BeeSource forums. I’ve learned a lot, but mostly I’ve been reminded of how fabulous forums are for learning new things.

I have a long and storied history with forums. If you knew me in high school you may be thinking, “Oh yeah, good times forum role-playing.” There was that. But to discover my deep love for forums you have to go back FARTHER.

Once upon a time there was a middle school girl living in a rural town. She was home schooled, and she loved it, but life had changed a bit. At this time both her parents were working various hours, her mom as a tobacco intervention researcher, and her dad as a real estate agent. (You can tell the latter is true because she didn’t say “realtor,” knowing that the term is a registered trademark with the National Association of Realtors and not wanting to look up the ® symbol for it.)

This was all fine except it got a bit lonely. Since no one was home but herself and therefore wouldn’t be needing to use the phone, she’d take this opportunity to use all the dial-up internet she could. For you younger millennials, there was a time when cell phones were rare and internet could only be used via the telephone line.

It sounded like this:

Anyway, I don’t remember how, but I discovered FORUMS. Specifically, dog forums. That and kennel management text games but THAT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT THING. I honestly don’t even remember the name of the main dog forum I visited, but I became part of that community. When I saw community, I really do mean community. We of course talked dogs (and boy did we ever): health, emergency treatment, breeding, training, behavior, sports, YOU NAME IT. But we also talked life. People’s upcoming surgeries. Managing their ranch in Texas. Births, deaths, sicknesses. Religion (even though we weren’t supposed to). There was DRAMA. We fought. We mourned. We rejoiced. We gave advice. We got advice. It was fascinating, and I learned SO MUCH.

See, kiddos, this was a time before SOCIAL MEDIA. Heck, this was before GOOGLE was a household name, and Yahoo! was king of the internet, having bought up the big search engines like Altavista and HotBot. I suddenly feel very old. ANYWAY, I was going somewhere with this.

Oh yes, before SOCIAL MEDIA. I would say I’m not here to crap on social media like everyone else (it’s the hottest fad), but I kinda am. I’ll try to refrain though. Social media is based on adding everyone you know or meet in real life to your friends list, and maybe friends of friends (or total strangers if that’s how you swing). The thing I’ve realized about social media that’s weird is that it’s sort-of like a free for all? You post whatever you want (theoretically within the terms of service), everyone is on equal standing, there are no terms of engagement with arguments…it’s kind-of mayhem. Honestly, I don’t even know how to analyze social media. I always get the sense that life is stuck in the past when I visit social media. Facebook serves up past memories of “better times,” people are having the same old fights in slightly altered flavors, and I don’t really see people getting better. I see people getting MORE, but social media isn’t really the place for making mistakes. It’s for showing off your beautiful, polished, flawless life. Or, alternatively, “here are all the ways my life sucks way more than yours.” Man I hate social media.

But forums are…different. They have their problems and some are definitely toxic, but they kind-of go at things in the opposite way. Instead of finding people you already know but probably don’t have a lot in common with anymore, you pick some common thing (in my case, beekeeping) and join a bunch of strangers who are also learning about that thing. There are RULES of engagement. There are moderators with big sticks to hit people if they get off topic or are inflammatory. And while there are totally those jerks who treat everyone like idiots or think they know IT ALL, there’s a general understanding that everyone is there to learn and are at different stages. This is amazing,  ya’ll. It is my belief that the best learning comes from spending time with a cross section of people in that field at different stages of learning. The absolute beginners can be taught by the people a few steps ahead of them, who are cementing their own knowledge by teaching. The “experts” can fact check the knowledge being doled out, be challenged by the crazy problems that others run into, and learn new ways of doing things. It’s a safe place for everyone to be wrong, to fail, to learn, and to teach. IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL I WANT TO CRY.

It’s also SO ACCESSIBLE. I have been lamenting recently that I wish I had more people to help me become the person I want to be. That’s DANG HARD when you don’t have people in your life who are interested in the same things. While I don’t think forums replace those people, they sure can help be a stop-gap or help in finding those people nearby (obvs be smart about that nonsense).

This post started out as a summary of my hive inspection today but somehow morphed into “WHY FORUMS ARE GREAT.” But in all seriousness, if you want to get better at something, you need that community. As much as I ABSOLUTELY HATE leaving my house and talking to people, the only way I can get better at something is by talking with, asking questions of, and teaching others. Forums are a nice first step that I can do from the comfort of my home while formulating my words before sharing them. If you have similar problems and want to learn I definitely recommend finding a good forum.

Good luck, and always keep learning!

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