I've been a member of the 009 Society for decades - not that I've exclusively modelled in the scale, far from it, it's just a natural home. There was a comment a week or so ago somewhere on line, 'the 009 Society will be dead in 10 years'. This got me thinking; does this apply to all model railway societies? After all the structure is generally common to all. I think that the comment comes from a root of the internet covers it all now thinking, and that similar contact can be carried out over forums. There are though gaping holes in this argument: Firstly, surprisingly there are still many people not linked to the internet (especially the older) or out of signal (those in remote bits of the country or countries). For instance, 25% of 009 Society members don't have email.
Putting photos of your model work on a forum, tends to get 'that's nice John' comments, but loses the conversational to-and-fro and detailed analysis that an area group meeting or exhibition can offer. While the various societies hold regular physical meetings and member's days, those who frequent the various forums rarely hold formal meet-ups. There is also the slightly invisible benefit: some societies offer layout insurance schemes, most have a help team of some sort, and the elephant in the room, many offer a layout disposal service for a spouse when we climb into the wooden box. I can't see Facebook groups offering this service anytime soon - nor would you really want them to.
Most of the major societies have been with us since at least the 1970s and are reasonably efficient machines. Several have become limited companies, such is the size and weight of membership and the associated legal ramifications of this, not to mention the data protection commitments. The internet on the other hand is a privacy free for all that protects no one, won't pick up the pieces when you are gone. While the society journals seem sluggish these days in respect of news and new product reporting compared to the speedy instant internet forums and Facebook, this speed is really only a thin veneer of association, and most don't really give a toss about you, only the promotion of the self. Most people realise this and treat them as such and see that physical connection with other modellers is by far the best way. No, the society and societies are not going anywhere. They're real and deep down we know that.