When I got involved in diesel- and steampunk, most of the online communities were message boards. Now most are on Facebook.
It has not been an improvement. Interactions in message boards were more civil and informative than they typically are on Facebook (or Twitter for that matter). Message boards were never enormous, so you could become a well-known member and make friends. Some of the fellow alternate-history aficionados I met in message boards are still acquaintances and in some cases Never Was contributors.
The problem with Facebook is that everyone is on it. But that is also its power. It’s why most people, when they want to create a community, create a Facebook group.
That’s not what we did for the Never Was Lounge. Here’s why.
What’s bad about Facebook
- Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy. They have allowed political campaigns to mine your data and micro-target you with deceptive ads. If an app wants to give users the ability to log in with their Facebook account, Facebook demands “full reciprocity” from that app, meaning they must share all the data they receive from their users with Facebook. (Never use your Facebook account to log in somewhere else!) Facebook gave big companies, including Amazon, Bing, Netflix, Spotify and Yahoo!, access to information users had marked as private, including private messages.
- Facebook doesn’t care about your user experience. Do you want to revisit a discussion you had a few weeks ago? Good luck finding it. Split off a discussion that’s gone off-track? Impossible.
- Facebook doesn’t believe in silos. It doesn’t understand you may want to be active in a steampunk group as well as the group of a charity, political party or trade union and keep those activities separate. Facebook believes in “transparency,” which means every one of your “friends” should be able to learn everything about you.
- Facebook doesn’t care about your sanity. They want to keep you on their platform for as long as possible. They is why Facebook will send you incessant notifications and suggest content they know will make you angry, because it makes you click.
- Moderation in Facebook groups is poor. Few people who create a group make the commitment to manage it well, so they become free-for-alls where rudeness and harassment go unpunished.
Why message boards are better
- You start with a blank slate. You don’t even need to give your real name. You are judged based not on who you are, but on how you behave.
- All a message board tracks is your IP address. (We need that in case a banned user tries to sneak back in under a different name and email.) We don’t keep track of which links you click on, how much time you spend on certain content, and we’re certainly not going to allow Amazon to read your private messages. (Why would any company care about a community of a few hundred people anyway?)
- Formatting options are much better. You can write long text with subtitles and quotes. You can include multiple pictures and embed videos.
- Discussions are organized in a way that makes more sense: first according to topic and then chronologically. If you can’t find something, try the list of the discussions you’ve contributed to in your profile or use the search function, which works much better than Facebook’s.
- Message boards really foster a sense of community, in part because they aren’t strictly about one topic. You probably wouldn’t share a meme, or have a political discussion, in an alternate-history group on Facebook, but you can in the Never Was Lounge — and that’s how you get to know people.
So stop by, check us out and consider signing up!