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Why do people use Internet Forums

Last update: 13 February 2014 by Jacob Palme E-mail: jpalme@dsv.su.se.
at the
Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University/KTH


  Here are some hypothesises on the reasons why people like to use social internet group communication tools like e-mail, distribution lists, internet forums, BBS-es, multi-user chat systems, etc. I have formed the hypothesis after many years of work with such systems. One basis for the hypothesis is messages written by users on their experience of the systems themselves. It would be interesting if some behavioural scientist tried to make a scientific study of these hypothesis.  

Status and self-esteem

  You can through CMC communicate with experts and with qualified equals. This will improve your self-esteem and give valuable contacts.  

Confidence, competence

  CMC makes it easier to keep up with progress and to avoid sliding behind in your area of expertise.  

Communion, comradeship

  CMC stops loneliness and produces a feeling of communion through discussion with qualified people in your areas of interest.  


  CMC provides an exchange of ideas with other people, who will inspire you to new ideas on your own tasks.  


  CMC allows you to help others and feel that others appreciate your help. And you know that you can get help in return when needed.

These factors are of course related. For example, most of the other factors listed above contribute to the factor "status and self-esteem".



The analysis above was based on a discussion in the first Swedish BBS, KOM, which was started in 1978 and got is peak usage in 1987 with about 1500 regular users. KOM was severely critised in TV and newspapers in Sweden in 1986-1987 for misuse (slander and racial prejudice in a small number of messages, which TV and newspapers wrongly presented as representative of how KOM was used). As a reaction to this, the KOM users started a discussion about the benefits of KOM, and the quoations below come from that discussion.

"KOM is like a living encyclopaedia, where you usually get many answers in a short time."

"You can even put a question in the middle of the night and get reply within a few minutes."

"We could not get the Swedish national characters printed on our printer. This plagued us for months, until I put in a question in KOM. Within a few hours, I had the solution."

"If you have special interests, you may only be able to talk about them to yourself. KOM has for me become the channel for contacts with alike-minded bout within and outside of my work."

"KOM is something of an elite group: everyone of importance in the computer area can be found in KOM. You can reach people of importance. I have regular contact with some of the most qualified experts in the country through KOM."

"The contacts through KOM got me into my work as computer consultant."

"I have contact with like-minded people, with the same burning interest for computers as I have. These contacts have several times grown into personal contacts with new friends."

"You regularly meet people you did not know before, and exchange very much information."

See also:

History of the COM computer conferencing system
Can computers decide what is legal and illegal?
A personal history of CMC
Some early forums 1979-1987 (Mostly in Swedish)


Back to the home page on research on Computer Mediated Communication (CMC).