In a recent post I told you guys a bunch of abstract, idealistic reasons for why I love the Internet. But really, it's more than that -- it's personal.
Let's face it: making friends in real life typically requires planning and big blocks of free time either to go out or to clean up the house and invite people over. And if you have a job and/or kids (or even if you don't) you don't necessarily have oodles of free time to go out and socialize as much as you might like. Then you have the obstacle of finding someone else whose free time matches up with yours, who doesn't live too far away, and hopefully shares some sort of interests with you. Sheesh, it's a wonder people in tho olden days were able to make friends at all...
Today whenever you find yourself with ten minutes or an hour to spare, you can pull up your cup of coffee (or whatever refreshing beverage you enjoy with your friends) and see what all of your virtual amigos are up to on your favorite blogs and forums.
True it's not the same as going out for a drink with your friends for real. But I don't see it as a substitute for real life socializing as much as it is a supplement and a resource. I spend as much time on real-life socializing today as I did before I discovered the Internet. But back then (without all my cyberbuds) I just had that many fewer friends. Plus I've met people in person that I met first online, and my Internet antics have helped me reconnect and stay in touch with family members and old friends.
Now you're probably going "Yeah right, Chanson, fess up -- the real reason you love the Internet is because of all the porn!!"
But in truth I'm not really interested in the porn. What I really like is talking about porn!!! The porn itself is okay -- I can take it or leave it -- but I can discuss porn theory all day long. Seriously. Try me. I think a lot of other feminists are the same way.
Considering how much I love the Internet, you may be wondering why I've essentially given up posting on forums (despite my recent visits to The Foyer and NOMs). It's really just a question of time. Blogging alone occupies more time than I ought to be wasting on the Internet, and if I added regular participation in a forum or two on top of that, I wouldn't have time to do anything else at all.
Now if it ever happens one day that there's nothing left of me but a disembodied brain in a jar hooked up to the Internet, then I'm sure I'll become a regular on several forums in addition to blogging. (Guys, please don't try to pretend that you never plan what you'll do if you're ever reduced to nothing but a disembodied brain in a jar.) But for the moment, my system is to focus on blogging only.
The main reason I ultimately chose blogging over forums is because I feel like it's easier to expand my social network outside of the boundaries of one particular forum.
The way I see it, a forum is a little like a town square (hence the name) where everyone has a megaphone and they're all talking to each other at once. A blog is more like a backyard barbecue where you go because you like the host, and maybe you'll see other people you know there, but maybe not.
The trouble is that it's incredibly time-consuming to live in even two or three towns to the point where you feel like you know the people there and understand what's going on. Then you may have friends you'd like to stay in touch with who aren't interested in moving to your favorite town, but who might be willing to occasionally stop by your backyard barbecue instead. Similarly, since I have interests besides exmormonism (hard to believe, but true!), it's easy for me to swing by non-LDS-related mathematician or other topic blogs on my blog-visiting rounds.
Another advantage to blogs is that they seem somewhat less prone to fighting and feuds than forums are. In blog space, if two people hate each other, they can just avoid visiting each other's blogs. But if they're on the same forum, they can't help but be constantly in each other's faces. A classic example is that unfortunate perpetual feud over on RfM between the religious and non-religious. I don't want to blame any individuals involved -- I really think that it's just a case where they've spent too much time disagreeing in a space where it's very hard to tune each other out. Then it escalates and ends up giving occasional visitors an inaccurate negative impression of both Christian and atheist exmos...
One advantage of a forum over a blog is that you tend to get more back-and-forth discussion among the participants. Plus you get more of a sense of community because you know that everybody there knows everybody else. But that isn't quite enough to tip the scale in favor of forums over blogging, so I probably won't be more than an occasional forum visitor again until I magically get a whole lot more free time (hopefully not through having my brain disembodied, but if it comes down to that, we'll see...).
Of course it looks like a lot of people participate on multiple forums and blogs in the great network of cultural Mormons. Once you participate somewhere in this network, you're likely to run into people you know and who know each other wherever you go. So even if it's only virtual, it's kind of like a community. :D