Recently I had agreed to participate in a web based fishbowl discussion via Zoom, a technology for webinars and video conferencing, that would permit both, the handful of participants as well as the listeners, to tune in from all over the world. For that same day a community conversation at our library had been announced. But I stuck with the former since I had committed to it - and ended up regretting it.
The web based Zoom technology made the discussion extremely cumbersome and stilted - you had to lift an electronic arm if you wanted to say something, you couldn't see the audience, nor the facilitators and discussion partners, only the one person that spoke at any given time. The facilitators, two to lead the conversation, one on the tech side to monitor the text messages that came in from the audience, were the ones in the cockpit who managed the many interactions. I came out of the discussion with a thick foggy head and the regret to have missed the "real," the face-to-face, conversation with my own community - real people, in a setting where I could have seen the whole room, everyone's expressions, where there would have been room for spontaneity, a conversation with people who are my neighbors, who make up my community, not someone from halfway across the world.
Face-to-face really is best. See also a previous post by that name.