Newsgroups is what started it all off. These were the first forums around. They were not pretty to look at but they got the job done. These go as far back as the 70's. Yup, forums have been around a very long time. Most of them at the start were not for the public but for corporations and such and were held on an intranet, not the internet.
So are they dead now with the introduction of social media. I don't think so. I think what has happened is that social media has divided or created two categories of people. One is the person who loves and swears by social media and will only use it. The other is the die hard fan of the forum.
Neither one is "bad". Social media did take a lot from the forum scene though. Mostly the people that are needed to keep a forum site going. If you look at social media these days it's not much different than a forum. FB, twitter and the like are all variations of a forum. They act similar in almost every way.
I think the big difference is a forum site is more personal and more of a niche than social media. Forums center around specific subjects and ideas. Were social media is more of a general catch-all for almost any subject. Which is fine if you like wading through pics of cats and hearing about your friends doctors appointments.
The forum site may have hit hard times due to social media but it is far from dead. With the progress that forums have made in the last while they have all the features of say FB and more features than twitter. They are safer as far as I am concerned and more of a private club than for the masses. All you have to do is search and I am positive you will find a forum out there on the net that is right for you.
Forums also, as far as I am concerned, help a person keep their individuality. On a forum you are not following the masses. You are not just there wasting time until you have to go out. You are a part of discussions that mean something to the people that are involved with you. There is more creativity on a forum because you can be yourself and not worry about the social aspects of being on a huge social media network.
Forums are not dead. Social media will be around forever now and the two will co-exist. There will always be this line though that some people will not cross. If you are into social media in a big way than your use of forums is probably not on your priority list. The same is true if you are a big forum fan. You most likely do not use FB or twitter a whole lot.
All in all, from my point of view I don't think forums are going anywhere. They will be around for many years to come. Who knows what they will look like in the future as compared to now or when they started but make no mistake about it. They are not going anywhere as long as you have die hard forum users out there.