The Internet is worse for the Watchtower than 1975 was: here's proof.
I can imagine that the internet has made quite a difference with regards to people who have left with grievances.
People are less likely to go back if they have been mistreated, as these days they tend to look online for support, or are just curious to see if others have had the same harsh treatment. That's when they find sites like this one.
Online offers a community that never used to exist. When you were kicked out 20 years ago, there was no one to share experiences with. Today there is an online community waiting with open arms. Less people will naturally return as a result.
Most seem to find this site because of being mistreated in some way.
The privacy the internet offers is killing JWs on the converting level because any new person or their family will research JWs out of love for their siblings. As for elders let him who hasn't ever looked at porn throw the first stone, I bet they have all had a peek.
I am surprised this is not getting a mention. Internet pornography is changing attitudes to sex. It is readily available and IMO a reason there are a shortage of brothers reaching out. The higher that people get up the cult ladder, the harder to leave. Conversely, all those that are holding back for reasons of porn based uncleanness are more likely to become inactive or fade.
SBF- thanks for the link. The information is fairly general, so does not really present any solid conclusions. It is interesting to see that the growth of Mormons has not collapsed as much as JWs. Although their beliefs seem crazier than JWs, (although the "never die" teaching of JWs is crazy with far greater ramifications) they are more integrated into society, which seems to go a long way in those involved being content not to look elsewhere.
Paul, I think Mormon numbers have collapsed quicker than JWs. If you look at the right numbers.
Select most western countries on the drop down option and notice the decline in number of congregations.
Britain has 333 congregations down from a peak of 374
Germany has 166 congregations down from a peak of 189
France has 108 congregations down from a peak of 128
Australia bucks the trend and currently has an all time peak of 312 congregations
Japan has 265 congregations down from a peak of 317 (this is perhaps the only country where JW decline in congregations matches or exceeds Mormon decline)
Italy 101 congregations down from a peak of 133
Many countries have this pattern of around 10 to 30% reduction in Mormon congregations over the past couple of decades. I think that's a pretty significant decline, and far greater decline than JWs have experienced so far.
Another graph, even more stunning:
Bible Study to Baptism conversion rate. 2016 was another historic low! Notice, even lower than post 1975 (much, much lower, in fact)... and all post 1996...
From my observation, there are two most important factors, and none of them has to with doctrine.
First and foremost, is the shrinking "recruitment pool". The JW's have been historically inept to make significant progress in Islamic, Buddhist and Hinduist countries, so they have directed their efforts mostly into areas where christianity in general has been dominant: Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australia. (Japan is a bit of an exception, but the JWs took advantage of the collapse of the Emperor's worshipping following WW2).
In the most well-educated and affluent societies of Europe, North America, Australia, access to information, critical thinking skills, more liberal attitude towards sexual orientation, have steadily contributed to a progressive secularization of society, and consequently, less interest in religion. In these areas, the JWs decline is only mitigated by the baptism of born-ins and the recruitment amongst immigrant communities.
The only source of significant growth is South America and Africa, where the erosion of the authority of the Catholic Church and mainstream protestantism, coupled with low rate of high education level is giving the JWs some leeway and helps to make-up the worldwide numbers.
The other factor is demographics. In general, the average JW is aging, the retention of born-ins is alarmingly low, and we should see an acceleration in the decline curve, as the numbers of dying old folk cannot be replaced by the recruitment of new ones and the born-ins aren't enough to make up for the ones who pass away or get DF'd.
I would argue that the most important effect of the internet and the "apostate activism" is not seen in the numbers of those who leave the Organization after many years of baptism, but rather, in the number of born-ins who refuse to become baptized JWs or those who baptized at a young age but who leave the JWs as soon as they get a measure of autonomy. That's why there has been a significant change from the Organization towards baptism of pre-teen youngsters and a tacit incentive to marrying young "in the truth". Catch them before they learn to think for themselves and while their fanatic parents still have enough authority over them and tie them in with all sorts of commitments so that leaving is not seen as a viable option.
Speaking for myself. I would be more inclined to return to the JWs if it wasn't for the community on the Internet.
Internet or not, as long as you have people that are lonely misfits, have suffered unexplainable tragedy, or are just plain nuts, there will always be a certain segment of the population that will fall prey to the Organization.
That being said, aside from born ins, the loss of intelligent, informed people will take it's toll on the religion. You can't sustain an organization with only needy people.
If anything, the internet serves a purpose of allowing the curious to instantly confirm whether a doctrinal statement is defensible.
That alone will eventually thin the ranks, until the Organization is comprised of only born ins, the dysfunctional, and those in third world countries with no access to the information that will allow an informed decision.
Of course, that's just my opinion.
jwfacts - "...It is interesting to see that the growth of Mormons has not collapsed as much as JWs..."
The LDS had enough collective intelligence to not demonize education, political activism, and harmless social customs.