the "social banter" threads have actually been split up and given their own forums, while it's true we are trying to discourage threads like: "post pictures of the inside of your left eyelid". The forums have been expanded so people who want to be more serious about certain social issues, arn't competing with the "what do you think of my avatar" thread.
A great deal of effort has been made my many people to ensure that the best of the best has been moved to these new forums.
Social Comentary have a look at what's there now! some of the great backyard thread have been moved there.
personal life and relationships yes! want to get to know each other better? wanna ask questions about how to treat your woman, or why all men are sic?
visual arts and photography you took a picture, you've got tallent? show it off, want to see what other people look like - create a Photography thread for that. You design CD covers, let everyone know!
don't think of the backyard as having been bulldozed, it's more like the fence was torn down, and now you can get to the Jungle gym, the ravine, or go mountian climbing, and thoes who want to swing on the swings arn't competing with thoes who prefer hiking in the woods.
i have nothing else to say, and could go on for days saying it!