The Internet, and connecting with people on it, has been apart of my life since the days of IRC and AOL chat rooms. In college, I discovered message boards, and the communities that resided within them. For the uninitiated, a message board is an environment where people can converse through posted messages. Many are organized around a particular theme – there’s a message board community for every topic under the sun, and even some communities that are solely for people to connect with each other.
My first message board experiences were as a silent reader – this was in my non-Greek days & I would lurk on a couple of Greek message boards, reading & soaking up information. Once I was able, I registered & dove right into the conversations. Over the years, I joined other message boards, including a gossip board, a couple of hair boards, and even a few “let’s just talk to each other” boards.
Every board is different, but one thing that always happens is the connection between members. Spend some time on a board, posting & reading, and eventually you’ll make some e-friends. Many people have been on the same boards for years, so inevitable for people to meet offline either one-on-one or at a meet-and-greet (MAG). At the very least, folks friend each other on FB, share emails and/or call/text each other. While friendships are made, conflict is also the norm. For every friend you made on a message board, you also found a font you couldn’t stand.
I’ve noticed that since I’ve been on Twitter, and since its explosion in popularity, my message board use has dwindled to virtually nothing. I used to be on message boards all day, everyday – talking, laughing, etc. It was a welcome diversion to the monotony of my day, and kept me entertained. We’d discuss everything, from mundane topics like what’s for dinner to the latest political controversy. Ladies shared beauty tips and men praised the latest cover of King magazine. And of course there would be those board-wide conflicts, with people instigating & laughing at all the drama.
Now, the antics of Twitter keeps me entertained.
It used to be that you had to invite your friends to a message board & encourage them to post, to get new blood on a site. If you didn’t like someone’s font or had beef, you either had to put them on ignore or leave the board entirely. With Twitter, interactions with new people occur quickly, thanks to retweets (RT’s), random conversations, trending topics (TT’s) and suggestions on who to follow. Somebody getting on your nerves? Unfollowing & blocking are quick & easy to do. Don’t want to unfollow them completely? Put them on mute for a while, thanks to several third-party services.
In a lot of ways Twitter functions like a message board, but in warp-speed. It’s constantly moving, even at 2AM. Everyone can participate in topics & discussions, thanks to trending topics (TT’s) and retweets. Information, ideas & opinions are shared so much faster, and are able to reach a much broader audience. And of course, people are able to develop connections on Twitter just like they were able to do on message boards. Many of my message boards friends are people who I chat with often on Twitter, and I’ve made connections with new people as well. Unlike a message board, Twitter isn’t insular – there are millions (if not billions) of people using it, with new members everyday. You can always find someone tweeting & talking about something interesting at any time of day or night.
Now that I’m a Twitter junkie, I’ve cut my message board time down considerably. I still lurk on a couple, but the entertainment value is no longer there. But I do think back to the years I spent as an active message board participant, and I appreciate that it allowed me to connect with some amazing people & make some great friends.
Were/are you a message board member? What communities did you post on? How do you think Twitter has affected the use of message boards?