The Great Divide
Long ago, back when the dollar was worth fifty cents, there was such a hue and cry over political comments encroaching upon and working their way into
traditional ATS fare that a separate board was created for that: Politics.AboveTopSecret.com, or PTS, also known as AbovePolitics.com.
Support for that move was mixed, plenty of politics remained on ATS proper and despite several efforts to cleanly divide the two, it never really
happened. At that time there was also a separate board for lighter, more "off topic" discussion that was quite popular in its own right called
BelowTopSecret.com, or BTS.
Eventually, it became clear that separate boards brought their own headaches, and ATS was ultimately reunified into the grand behemoth we now have
today. Some relics remain, such as the "p-troll" or political trolling warning, which is awarded for attempting to drag politics into non-political
topics (e.g., "Astronomers discover new planet" => "That must be where Bush/Obama came from" et al), as well as a general recognition in our community
that there are different and distinct areas of interest.
Digital Melting Pot
On that score, I don't think it breaks down into a dichotomy, but a somewhat more multipolar culture. In additional to "Paranormals" and "Politicals",
I would add "Conspiracy Theorists", "Theologists", "Scientists", "Survivalists", "Military Technologists", "Sociologists", "Activists", "UFOlogists"
(that area of study isn't necessarily "paranormal", per se) and people who just like to socialize and have a good time, which we could, for fun, call
"Socialites". Quite a few members would qualify for several of these ("Generalists") and I'm sure I've missed other areas of interest that may qualify
as distinct subsections of our wide-ranging community.
As for "Politicals" growing in number and "Paranormals" shrinking, there may be an overall trend, but in my experience it tends to be more of an
oscillation. We usually see more politics in the summer months (the "Summer Silly Season") and surrounding (mostly U.S.) elections, and less during
"off seasons". Likewise, we tend to see interest in "paranormal" topics wax and wane as well, along with surges and lulls (or lulz) in the
ever-popular (and ever-infamous) perpetual barrage of five-second YouTube "UFO" videos.
What I find more interesting is while some members come for the politics and stay for the politics, there are quite a few cases of people coming for
the political debate and eventually gravitating away from that and into the other areas of interest in the forums. An example would be people who are
passionate about Climate Change starting off debating the politics, tiring of the perpetual sturm und drang in the political forums and winding up in
Fragile Earth, discussing the more technical aspects of Climate Change theory (which, of course, has its own brand of sturm und drang).
There are other similar pathways, including the opposite of the example I gave (i.e., from non-political forums to political forums) and many members
(including myself) tend to migrate around as our interests change. What's cool is that we can.
Ironically, I was sounding the alarm about politics encroaching on ATS way back in 2004 (around the time of the bitter U.S. presidential elections,
not-so-coincidentally enough). Since then I've become less concerned about that and more fascinated by the way member interests change over time.
While our own perceptions of ATS can become narrow (i.e., we see ATS through the prism of a few forums), it's actually a very big place with a lot of
different things going on.
For fun, I suggest a little "ATS tourism". Look around on the Forums
page and try something
new. Granted, some forums are red hot and others seem almost glacial by comparison, but those different paces themselves represent different modes of
discussion. Some people prefer slower-moving, more focused forums and enjoy them precisely for that reason.
Anyway, long story short, ATS is a big place. If it ever starts getting stale, try something new. If it ever stops being fun, take a break and try
something else, whether other discussion boards or just unplugging from the Internet for a while. I've burnt out on ATS and done that many times over
the years, but I always find myself coming back.
Others may not come back, of course, but for those of us who do, it's nice to know that ATS is here for us.
edit on 8/10/2011 by Majic because: (no reason given)