Forums and Social Media – its not new
Almost two decades ago my love / hate relationship with Internet Forums began. Recently charged with training our swat team and sniper unit, information was needed and the Internet was the easiest place to get it. As a graveyard sergeant there was plenty of time given Internet had just arrived in our cars. It fit perfectly into my workaholic type A personality. Along with general information there were two or three “sniper” forums located. Initially they offered some very useful information, decent commentary, and helped me a great deal. After a year or so I was invited to moderate one of them doing so until that board eventually closed down. It was definitely an education in the herd mentality proving to be an ominous peek into the future – social media.
Having sworn off the sniper forums for years my experience faded into the recesses of my subconcious only to reappear later. Having an officer or two step in it on Facebook it was avoided like the proverbial plague. Besides, who on earth had time, or presumed to think anyone cared about the crap posted there. Happily absent from my exisrtence until a few years ago it was once more into the breach, this time as a free lance writer. Providing a means to share my work with those who read my articles it was a must, at least so told by those who know more than me. It has once again been educational, partially useful, and often frustrating. Strikingly similar to early forums it provided many of the same pitfalls prompting this somewhat less than PC guide to sifting through much of the waste populating the medium. Its a two parter, the first identifies the major players, next month brings some advice on how to wade through the crap.
So what am I talking about?
On the whole Facbook and the other social media is pretty innocuous. Most of it consists of the most useless information humanity can produce, but it can be entertaining. For those that use it personally it seems to suit them. Not my thing, nothing on my site is personal, all business. My site is pure propaganda highlighting the companies I work with, items tested, and the process used for testing. If you want to know about my life and be bored to death you will need to meet me in person.
Businesses use it to get the word out, myself included. Most just post their stuff, encourage “likes” and push their products. Even though gun industry types cannot “boost” their posts, there is still some draw and you can reach a ton of people. Too bad you can’t really advertise these days on Facebook if you are in the gun industry, but thats life in this new PC world. Reach all the people you want if you are a terrorist, anarchist, advocate killing cops, but guns are evil? Funny how I can “boost” my blog posts, just nothing else. Will be curious to see if I can boost this one! So, what follows is not about that part of the medium. Its about the groups, and even then only a few of them.
Closed groups are the Facebook answer to the Internet forums. You need to get invited, and they are typically geared towards a similar preference in a gun, manufacturer etc. I presume its the same for all, although the gun groups, especially the tacticool ones seem to most closely resemble what follows. A member of several, some are great, but others are nothing more than a place for egos to get stroked. Good information is still there, not everyone who thinks they are Gods gift to the firearms world is completely worthless. You just have to sift through the crap and the humans that leave it behind. In order to do that we need to know the players, so you can understand how the filtering process works. This model was actually developed years ago while on the “sniper” sites and resurrected, but it holds true here as well. Its a bit tongue in cheek for sure, but those on these sites will get it. The players will all think it is someone else. Either way, have some fun with it.
The Players (Gods, Gurus, and Followers)
Facebook or forum gods are those individuals dominating social media pages or Internet forums. Especially on gun forums they often have “real world experience”. Some are “famous” others are secret squirrels living in the shadows. We know they are “real” because the other followers or the moderator tells us so. With followings the worlds deities would envy, they are unquestioned, kowtowed to, and reign supreme, facts are optional. Sometimes there is only one, maybe two or three seldom more, the world is only so big. After issuing dictums they banter back and forth exchanging wisdom. Their information is valuable at times, just as often useless, but never doubted. God has spoken, any attempt to question them results in a barrage of followers touting their experience, knowledge and expertise. Even worse, god himself challenges you in the gleaming light of the page! Really piss them off and the “ban hammer” comes out – dictum and dogma cannot be questioned!! Some moderators try to keep them in tow, most don’t. Why, because it drives clicks, likes, revenue, and brings in more followers – or they are a guru or follower themselves.
Gurus on the gun pages are trainers, media members, or followers of forum gods that have gained a certain notoriety. They may have their own website, blog, or company. When they speak people listen, especially if they don’t contradict their particular forum god. Dogma is their trade; they have “been there done that” and have DVD’s, videos, or a Youtube channel to prove it. What they do is new and improved, combat proven, practiced, and trumps anything done in the past, especially “old timers”. Anything they have not invented, developed or stolen from another trainer is antiquated, impractical, or worst of all GAMING! When they tell you a particular gun is trash or garbage it is, period. Conversely, those they tout as “proven” are unquestioned. Just sell everything you have, by this, and you will never want again!! Better yet, follow the dictum, buy it first then all is good in the world and you have maintained your connection to the flock (and bought the same item they are selling).
Most of the members are followers. They may just follow the site, or a particular god or guru – depends on the type of site. Some are silent, others post every 15 seconds trying too reach guru status. Those dedicated to a particular product believe it to be perfect, all others inferior. The solution to every problem is their chosen weapon, piece of kit, or training method. They feed the gurus and gods making sure they maintain their status and preach the word. Occasionally they question, quickly trounced for doing so – one must remember their place. Silent followers nod, certain to hit the “like” button then crank up the credit card buying the gurus favorite stuff. Others repeat what the guru just said expressing how earth shatteringly clear it was. You can just see hundreds nodding as they look at their computers in unison. While every guru and god would disagree, followers are the most critical – without them there is no one to pontificate or dictate to, an intolerable condition. You can only be a true god or guru if you have a flock, and the bigger the better.
Sewage, the perfect analogy!
Sewage is comprised primarily of waste, human waste to be more precise. It contains all kinds of stuff, much if it will make you sick, some of it will kill you. Sewage control is often seen as the most critical aspect to controlling the most deadly diseases known to man. Prior to proper sewer systems rampant disease killed millions, it still does in many countries lacking sewage and running water. However, there is a silver lining. Properly filtered sewage provides some of the most powerful fertilizers developed to date. Used on many fields today for grass or similar products it is incredibly valuable. Given the amount of human waste deposited each day the supply of useful material for proper growth is endless.
The Internet and Social Media are pretty much the same. Much of what populates both are waste, human waste, left at the stroke of a key. Unchecked it can be detrimental, lethal in some cases, especially when it comes to guns, gun handling, and training. While it makes the industry millions of dollars, it costs hard working people thousands. Short of a good old ban, or threat of a ban, nothing sells like social media traffic. Every day someone sells their perfectly solid gun to buy that touted by their social media or Internet god or guru. Useless and costly gear is added constantly. Still more buy their first guns based on these dictums, can be good, often not. Still, properly filtered it can produce some of the most useful information you will ever get, and for the most part is free. Just like raw sewage, there is an endless supply of useless crap that can be filtered into accurate information, the trick is in figuring out how.
So, next time you get on your favorite page see if my little model fits, it may surprise you. See if you can identify the good stuff and sift through the sewage. Next months blog will provide a bit of a guide to the sifting process, then you can compare methods. Make no mistake, social media can be valuable, and in most cases it is made up of some really good people trying to do a really good job. It is more real life than most want to admit.
My guess is this will really piss off many, make a few chuckle, and some will just shake their head. Either way make sure you go to my Facebook page and like it, I need the clicks!!