Will forums fix the Internet?

In the opinion portion of Kurzgesagt's most recent video, they suggest that going back to small forums, bulletin boards, etc. will help people deradicalize and become more empathetic. The idea behind this is that, just like real life, forums allow people who disagree on certain things to bond under a shared interest or identity; this makes people more receptive to those disagreeing opinions and more empathetic towards the people that hold them. I'd watch the video if you haven't, as it'll make more sense then.

My question: do you agree with this? Do you think returning to separated forums will help in the way Kurzgesagt suggests? Do you think it'd be a good idea for other reasons?

My opinion is that while I don't have an issue with individual forums, I'm very skeptical of the idea that they'll help solve extremification like the video claims. Kurzgesagt says that these forums are like real life, but I see a few issues with this claim:

  • On forums, people maybe be just talking about the thing that the forum is about. For example, if you're on a forum about Minecraft or cats, you're not going to be discussing differing political opinions — in fact, such conversations are usually frowned upon. This is different from your real life community, where you're going to be talking about all sorts of different topics.
  • Many forums are about the very things we don't want people extremified on. Look at lemmygrad or hexbear, which might as well be their own forums given the massive amount of defederation from them. Or, for a less extreme example, go to r/antiwork — you won't find much disagreement there (that isn't buried into obscurity by downvotes, anyway). These places can potentially create dangerous bubbles that Kurzgesagt says are rare online, and that could get even worse if, for example, political subreddits became their own forums entirely.

These are just my thoughts immediately after watching the video, so I'm curious to see what others think.

CanadaPlus, (edited )

The central point of this video was a surprise to me, since I’ve come to question if long-term global polarisation is actually happening at all, from watching the research over the past few years. However, from what I can tell the sources for this video don’t really settle the matter.

It’s well supported for the US case, but the first source on the international aspect actually argues at length the US situation is unique. There’s other reasons to think it’s not actually happening the same way everywhere; European and American populism has entirely different demographic dynamics, for example. This might be a case of Kurzgesagt editorialising a bit.

If they’re right, that sucks, because there’s no way people are going to stop engaging with each other on big platforms.

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar
  • I think that people should in general embrace all kinds of points of views at least in some way and not just ignore some stuff just because they differ
  • I don't have enough experience about the forums and those other tools to speculate any possible effects
  • I believe that giving any surrounding for extreme thinking can make it getting out of hand later if not somehow moderated
ghostatnoon,
ghostatnoon avatar

On forums, people maybe be just talking about the thing that the forum is about. For example, if you're on a forum about Minecraft or cats, you're not going to be discussing differing political opinions — in fact, such conversations are usually frowned upon. This is different from your real life community, where you're going to be talking about all sorts of different topics.

A lot of real-life communities restrict discussions about politics too, and for similar reasons to online communities (not wanting to be broken apart by angry discussion). What I got from the video was that positive interaction with somebody you disagree with — even if, or maybe especially if, that interaction isn't actually about the source of the disagreement — is more important than actually facing the disagreement head-on, which usually just serves to make everybody angrier and more convinced of their own points.

My thoughts: I'm in a lot of small communities online (mostly forums and discord servers), and the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that are generally populated by people who have similar worldviews and cultural values, and that prohibit discussion of extreme points from the "other side" — not because I don't want to challenge my worldview, but because I think those communities challenge my worldview more. Spending time in them makes me feel positive about other human beings. I respect the people in them who have different opinions from me, and frequently have conversations with them that change my own opinion a bit.

On the other hand, going into the default feed on a larger social media site is like being hit in the face and then told that I'm supposed to be considering whether maybe I deserved to be hit in the face, really, which isn't something I usually feel particularly disposed to do. Sites like mastodon have enough controls to be able to make your feed into something that at least isn't actively radicalizing, but it means you can't follow anybody who disagrees with you, because those posts will be mixed in with anything from them that you actually do want to see. Your feed isn't like a forum with its own set of social norms about what kind of content is acceptable to post in what context. People you follow can't read the room before they post because the room isn't visible to them in the first place. So I do think that forums are much more conducive to being deradicalizing than a lot of other forms of social media, just because the nature of having distinct communities with separated pools of posts makes it a lot easier to interact with people you disagree with in situations where you agree with and respect them. But it also relies on the forum having the right rules and moderation — just being a forum isn't enough for it to be a healthy and respectful community.

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar

A lot of real-life communities restrict discussions about politics too...

I assume so because those discussions easily lead to fights 🤔 I think many communities just want the good vibes and not risk dealing with bad behavior or fighting or whatever other negativities these kinds of topics can bring.

but because I think those communities challenge my worldview more

I feel there's a difference between questioning your beliefs or points of views in a constructive way to make you think more and articulate your reasoning behind them, questioning them in a negative feedback without bringing anything positive or "developing" to the discussion, and then just trolling or doing anything just to start fights.

lambalicious,

Forums already fixed the internet back in the 90s. We just undid it. And have to pay the price.

snooggums,
snooggums avatar

In my real life communities we tend to forward on too many political sidetracks from whatever we were meeting about too. Not the stifling way, just that we don't need to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine while trying to play DnD. We can talk about it after

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar

We can talk about it after

Agreed.
I think it's wise to focus on the thing that was agreed on before to be done (first) and if time is left, then go into other matters.

Fiivemacs,

All those forums and whatnot still exist…they never left.

People just like to be sheep and follow the herds to the company ran/endorsed cesspools where ads are the primary focus.

People listen to companies and believe their lies.

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar

Somehow kbin is more attractive to me than Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Snapchat, Instagram and the like.
Some of those services I never made an account to, and some I used for a few hours before deleting the account.

And at the same time I ignore forums, cos they feel like a less active way for me to have discussions...while now thinking that kbin might seem more of a forum than a social media thing like those I mentioned earlier.

agamemnonymous,
@agamemnonymous@sh.itjust.works avatar

The main discrepancy I see is, it’s not actionable. It’s like solutions to obesity: yes of course people should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet, but so long as it’s cheap and easy to binge Netflix and eat fast food, hundreds of millions of people will settle into that lifestyle. So long as algorithm-driven feeds are widely available people will flock to them, and so long as they remain profitable they will remain widely available.

The people who want to eschew mainstream social media for smaller forums will do that, but most people won’t and the societal issues will remain unchanged. They only way to actually implement change is by eliminating algorithm-driven social media, and how do you even do that?

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar

yes of course people should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet, but so long as it’s cheap and easy to binge Netflix and eat fast food, hundreds of millions of people will settle into that lifestyle

In some cases you "don't have a choice".
I've heard that Facebook is installed automatically in some smart phones and even set to some extremist site/discussion/forum/whatever as default when the person opens that app in the beginning. If you're not tech-savvy, that may lead to even bigger problems...
And then there's the Chinese government's "game". Act like how they want and you get life-made-easier benefits. Talk trash about the government or do some other actions they don't like and...well...

The people who want to eschew mainstream social media for smaller forums will do that, but most people won’t and the societal issues will remain unchanged.

Some folks don't know about the other tools. Some are unsure about them. Some folks feel there's not enough activity/lack required/needed content in the smaller tools so why bother going there in the first place.

shalafi,

How? Not quite sure, but I’ve seen some wild changes in 5 decades walking the Earth, societal changes I never imagined. Some bad, but mostly good. At least until the last few years when we seem to have gone off the rails. (Watch the video y’all.)

There’s no sane way to legislate it. We used to always quote, “You can’t legislate morality.”, regarding a load of topics. And I still believe that.

Maybe there comes a day where social media is regarded as uncool? For example, young people seem to eschew Facebook as a poisonous trap. And it is! Twitter is tanking hard and fast. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Maybe social media fragments into smaller and healthier chunks? After 11-years on reddit, here I am and it’s so much nicer.

Damaskox,
Damaskox avatar

“You can’t legislate morality.”

If someone who came from a society that didn't have laws started to wreak havoc in "our societies"...
Let's just say that not all moralities benefit some people's or everyone's well-beings. And that's why some actions should be moderated.

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