I’m part of an online writing forum called The Echo. I joined in 2008 and have been on and off since then. Yesterday, I revisited it and saw how inactive it has become. It made me sad because I have so many fond memories of chatting, reading, and engaging with my peers’ feedback. We’d play word games, have holiday parties (my favorite was a Halloween party where we went virtual trick or treating with image candies to everyone’s “houses,” a thread with a drawing of their house), share in the troubles of school, the difficulties of writing, the good times of writing when ideas were flowing, and talk about favorite authors and books. Even though I’ve never met these people, they’re friends, and we made a community.
The Echo isn’t the only forum that has declined in activity. All of the small forums that I looked at were either closed or dead. So I suppose The Echo has faired much better than most. The only active forums I found were from big organizations such as Writer’s Digest. We’ve lost these online spaces for small communities. (At least for writing forums.)
Life happens. We get busy with school and work. We don’t have time. And I’m just as guilty of this. Now I’m rediscovering the online world of writing and reading. I started this blog to set a deadline for myself to write something every week. But I’m seeing how isolated we bloggers are in comparison to writing forums. It’s nice to have your own site to put up all of your works. You have control over the design and content. You can personalize and individualize it. It’s an online portfolio.
I’ve found blogs to be more about other people reading your blog rather than engaging with others. With so many blogs and so much content, how do you know where to begin? This is where I miss the community that a writing forum provides. With a writing forum, you don’t have to search for people, for stories to read, or for chat rooms to talk. Everything is already there for you in one place. And with a small writing forum, you’re not overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people and content.
Another feature I love about the writing forum, is the engagement with other people. When a member shares a story, we read it, write our thoughts, the author engages with our comments, asks questions. It’s a dialogue and from this interaction we build friendships. Though some forums now have this feature of the “like” button, we disabled it on The Echo because we didn’t want to move from commenting on threads to simply “liking” them. For blogs, instead of commenting, we “like” something. It’s quick and easy. Clicking this button is a way to signal that we’ve read it without spending the time to write something. The “like” button is passive participation. It’s a way to say we’re active without being committed.
In moving from writing forums to personal blogs, we’ve isolated ourselves and detached from tight-nit communities. We’re concentrated on meeting our deadline to write that new blog post. It’s all about our own work. Of course, it’s wonderful to receive attention, but what I’m missing the most from the writing forum is the community interaction. Although we can engage with others through our blogs, I’ve found it harder than on a writing forum. I hope that the small online community of writing forums will flourish again like it once did.