And so the lord said unto the airsofter “Here’s Facebook, use it to create a home for your hobby and help build a community” and for a while, it was good… But like the forums before it, the rules slowly changed and people migrated away from it in search of the promised land… We cast our net wide
Airsoft used to belong to the forums… I’m talking pre-social media, When men were men, Women were men and little girls were FBI agents. You could log in to one of a handful of forums and easily become distracted for a number of hours… Bouncing from one post to another… Admiring a review on a new replica to hit the shelves and in less than half a dozen clicks find inspiration for a Loadout. The forums built our community and if you look at a fair amount of those in the industry and those putting out content, you’ll find a sizeable chunk of them having started out as an anonymous avatar on a quest for Airsoft enlightenment.
The anonymity is something that I feel separated the old way of communicating from today’s habitual need to shitpost. You’d have thought it was the other way around but it appears that by having no avatar to hide behind, the requirement to boost your own ego is a symptom of being “Active” in the community. There’s been a general upsurge in people pushing undesirable or unrelated content just to widen their fan base… Power-playing to get that confrontational footage for your YouTube channel, Clickbait posts (Seriously?) and Boobs for likes being a literal shit-fest that isn’t worth getting into a discussion about as you’ll either look like a thirsty as fuck virgin or a bigoted misogynist… There is no middle ground on this debate.
God help you if your a woman with an opinion, you’ll soon regret becoming active in a community that can be pretty hostile to anyone outside its core demographic. A real shame when you consider some of the best ambassadors of this sport are women, I’ll not mention any names but I’ll go as far to say that they are generally the ones that don’t have generic discount codes for second rate Airsoft stores all over their posts and the content is relevant, usually not posed and full of the same grass roots sportsmanship that makes this game worth playing.
Something else that appears to have been pushed aside in the social media era is the general politeness that wasn’t always present but generally enforced by a moderator team (sometimes with a little too much enthusiasm).
So why the nostalgia? Well… Airsoft needs a home. At one time you’d easily call Zero In the home of the UK Airsoft Community, yes it has bonkers rules, the occasional scammer and for every good post, ten others asking “which am best gnu?” But it had everything you needed from how to and tech help to apprasials and sales for everything you needed.
The age of social media virtually wiped out forums, barring the more specialised forums such as used by individual sites and certain geardo communities. The ease of posting through Facebook and the niche groups it was easy to build made it a great platform, And as said above… For a while it was good. You could buy and sell, it allowed you to seek and deliver advice and most importantly you could show off your overpriced pot metal replicas to the unwashed masses and create a name for yourself.
Shifts in the politics of social media however dictated that guns are bad… And therefore Airsoft by virtue of using replica guns was also bad. YouTube were the first out of the global content enablers to shift away fromFirearms and Airsoft. Big names like Jerry Mikulek and Hickok 45 having their channels unceremoniously ripped out of existence (only to be reinstated later) as a proverbial signal to the rest of the community that “your not welcome round here”.
Demonetisation followed and with it, The appeal of making labour intensive content reduced. You look back 5/6 years ago at YouTube and Airsoft and the amount of content was huge, literally everyone was doing it. Nowadays though there’s not really much in the way of Airsoft content, certainly most of the quality content providers have drastically scaled back and migrated to quick snapshot platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
So the home of the Airsoft community? Well it doesn’t have one at the moment, and the reasons (as far as I’m concerned) are…
1, Facebook and YouTube are decidedly unfriendly towards firearm shaped objects. Instagram will undoubtedly follow, being a Facebook owned entity it’s bound to follow in the same footsteps of content management that restricts what your able to post about… Hate speech and Mass killing videos? Fine… Toy guns? Instaban.
2, forums are labour intensive to navigate… we’ve become lazy through social media’s intuitive navigation paths… posts, pages and groups work fantastically depending on how you want to communicate, it also allows a real time, 2 way discussion between any two people anywhere in the world. I can talk with a friend in Glasgow or a gear manufacturer in Virginia Beach with comparatively little effort, a few hashtags can open up your audience to people you’d never have spoken to in the forum days.
3, The era of apps has made us lazy… Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WordPress, Youtube and WhatsApp all have very well developed apps. We now do more and more on our mobiles… I write the majority of this blog on an iPhone in sporadic bouts of downtime, My analytics suggest you probably read this after following a link from social media on your mobile! The forums only really have Tapatalk… a generic overlay that tends to remove the things that made forums so desirable in the first place. Until forums are able to develop decent mobile optimisation and integrate with social media, we’ll carry on not using them as much as other, less Airsoft friendly channels.
So what do I want? Probably the same as you. I want a home for Airsoft… A place where information is gained, gathered and stored for future viewing. An archive of information, A marketplace for all the things we covet and need to part with and most importantly a place to share our thoughts, be it a quick reflection on a days events or maybe something more profound such as the gathering of like minded people.
How does this happen? Well it has to be a labour of love… Not only for those who host that community but also the people who interact within it. It’s coming up to a point where we might have to migrate our discussions and groups to another platform, away from external influences and in a format that allows easy access and content creation. Push notifications and the ability to share on mainstream media such as Instagram or Facebook.
We also need to start remembering that we are a community whether we like it or not, There’s often less difference between a Sunday skirmisher and a die hard MilSim player than you might think, And to the outside there’s virtually no difference at all. If we don’t snap out of our own little cliques and work together, promoting and maintaining the high standards we all deserve then Airsoft will peak and then rapidly fade away much as paintball is starting to.
The final option is to keep the community as it is, for good and bad… Everything from UKAC to Super Mega Tactical Airsoft News and everything in-between… (SMTAN being the heartbeat of the community as far as I’m concerned… Thanks for the memes guys). So what are your thoughts? Is the community toxic? What’s in store for it’s future and will the forums be making a comeback?