Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Comments on Facebook, Social Networking and Genealogy
Over thirty years ago, when I started working on my family's genealogy, I did not have a concept of a genealogy community. The entire idea that someone else might want to talk about genealogical research was utterly foreign to my experience. Nobody I knew, except my wife, had any interest in genealogy or family history or whatever you wanted to call what I was doing. Probably, for the first twenty years or so, no one who knew me even suspected the existence of my interest in genealogy except my immediate family members and they mostly tolerated, but ignored my interest.
The first intimations that there might be more people out there interested in genealogical research came while I was working in my Apple computer dealership. Our store was about half a mile from the Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple and the Family History Center next door to the Temple. Because we supported Apple computers, we started to have people come into the store to have their GEDCOM files and other information transferred from Apple to PC format. Soon our involvement with the Family History Center grew to the point that we were providing support for many computer related issues and I even got involved in beginning and maintaining a website for the Family History Center.
Over the years, I studied genealogy and took correspondence classes from Brigham Young University about family history for years and did a lot of reading and worked on doing research into my family. Still, I had no concept of a "genealogical community" as such, either online or in person. I had never attended a genealogy conference and in fact, did not know they existed. As I became more involved with the Mesa Family History Center, I finally decided to volunteer there as a Church Service Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That was about fourteen years ago.
I finally went to my first genealogy conference. I attended the Family History Expos Conference in Mesa, Arizona. About the same time, due to a dare from one of my daughters, I started blogging. I was invited to be an official blogger for the next Family History Expos Conference in Mesa, Arizona and the rest I guess we can say is history.
Now, since I started blogging in about 2008 and blogging about genealogy in 2010, the impact of becoming part of a larger, online and conference oriented, international, genealogical community has pretty much dominated my life. I was already very much involved in online activities, since my brother and I had been designing and maintaining commercial websites for years. So the transition to being saturated online was not a big step.
What was a surprise and is still a source of astonishment is the huge involvement that has resulted with people and genealogy companies and organizations around the world. What is even more surprising to me is that my number one skill on the LinkedIn.com website is social media.
Now, what about Facebook? I tolerate it. I still think that blogging, even if the attention span of the average online participant is dropping, serves the genealogical community better than "sound bites." But I have to acknowledge that a medium like Facebook with such a huge global reach has become a major force in the world community and has extended its reach into the genealogical community as well.
Presently, almost every genealogical company and organization has a Facebook page. Facebook is ubiquitous. Of course, all my blog posts are also posted to Facebook, as well as Google+, Twitter and other websites. I suspect that many more people recognize me as a Facebook person than as a blogger.
It is difficult to image life without social networking. But it is difficult to see how social networking fits into the world of genealogical research. I realize that from time to time I see articles about doing your genealogy on Facebook and I must admit that some of the documents and other items I have collected over the past few years have come from contacts made on Facebook, but communication alone is not genealogy. Don't get me wrong, I am not per se down on Facebook or other social media. I certainly enjoy the contact with old friends and family, but I don't see how any of my serious research problems and any extensive learning come from my involvement with Facebook.
Genealogy is a seriously involved activity. I spent two and half hours with a patron last night researching one family in England. That is a different world than the flash by brief notes and videos on Facebook. I appreciate the photos but I fail to find a lot of substantive information. I admit that I use social networking, texting, Instagram and other tools as much as time allows. But I always feel like I am taking time away from my serious genealogical endeavours.