Someone wrote recently that “Discussion forums are dead,” now that Facebook and Twitter have become such huge magnets for online social discourse. Is that so? Is there really no longer a place on the internet for an entirely public forum, where anyone can pose questions and engage with others on topics that are of significance to them?
Enclaves of Private Groups
One could argue that Facebook and Twitter are not actually “public discussion forums” at all, since every participant chooses who is IN their circle and who is OUT. On these social media platforms we create our own enclaves of private groups. It’s less about gathering around a particular TOPIC than it is all about who we know and are connected to. In social media, we choose who we wish to hear from and share with. We cultivate and curate. We weed out the people we do not wish to hear from. We are birds of a feather, flocking with our own kind.
Consequently, there are fewer opportunities to rub shoulders and engage in the lively art of conversation with others who are unlike us in many ways. We’ve drawn boundaries around our online personas so that we can decide who we want to hear from, and who we don’t. We divide ourselves by political party, by religious dogma, by gender preference, by our personal likes and dislikes. So the cat-lovers never have to hear from the dog-lovers and vise versa. We have isolated outselves by what divides us, to the detriment of what unites us.
The Place for a Public Forum
A public discussion forum, by contrast, is a place where anyone and everyone can read and post. A discussion forum is a genuine peer-to-peer public square for conversation, and it calls for tolerance, respect for others, an openness to new ideas, and a good measure of civility. It is a place where respectful debate is welcome. It is a place where people can expect to read viewpoints they disagree with, and where our comfortable beliefs will be examined and challenged.
In short, a public forum is a place that has largely disappeared from the social landscape. We might wonder, does anyone care to know, any more, what the rest of the world is thinking?
Why Start a Forum?
I started this forum because I have been a sojourner among the “spiritual but not religious” for a long time. There are precious few places where we can meet and explore our spirituality together. I miss the company of spiritual seekers. I hope that in time, this site will become a home for people in all walks of life who have moved on from church in an effort to deepen their sense of the sacred.
It may take some time before this particular discussion forum has gathered a community around the topic of spiritual matriculation. I will keep the doors open as long as it takes. I want to meet others who have left the church, I want to hear what they have to say about why the left and what they are up to now. I want to share my own discoveries.
What It Takes
It takes your participation. The fact you’ve read this far suggests you are interested in this particular public forum. It’s public — you are free to read everything everyone says. If you want to add your own comments, arguments, and perspective, then you will need to sign up to be a participant here. Welcome! Please join our conversation.