As the year is drawing to a close, I've realized something. Due to some strange financial road blocks at the start of the year, I put off renewing my regular memberships to the three societies I normal pay dues to. Then I got busy and forgot to send in the paperwork, despite having it prominently on my desk. All three memberships include a print journal that I also did not receive all year.
So, you would expect I really missed out on some stuff this year, no?
The reality is that I didn't miss out, which is also part of the reason my motivation to renew was fairly low. It's not that I don't support these societies or don't want to be involved, it was more that there was no downside to forgetting to renew. I still have access to all the journals online and get email table of contents for them all. I even still remain active in a service role for two of the societies as a member of the editorial board of one and chair of a committee in another. The fact that I didn't drop a couple of hundred bucks to be an "official" member seems to have had zero consequence.
Part of the reason for this was an unusual summer schedule that took me to some conferences for other societies, rather than making my normal rounds. The meetings I typically go to overlapped with these others, making impossible to get to all of them. For that reason, my membership in my normal societies slipped under the radar in a way that likely would not have happened in other years.
Nevertheless, it does make me wonder a bit about the utility of society memberships to the individual. I should note that I am not advocating that people not renew their memberships because I realize that if everyone opted out of membership a society would go under - hence the title of the post. I also plan to renew my membership in the new year, but if one was interested in answering the question "what would happen if I didn't renew my membership for a year", it would seem that the answer is "nothing".