Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are Genealogy Blogs Invisible to Academics?

Since I have been serving as a missionary at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I have had some increased contact with genealogists who were "academically" oriented, i.e. they work for the University as professors, associate professors and adjunct professors. There are some notable exceptions, but there seems to be a correlation between the academics and a lack of awareness of online genealogy blogging. As a matter of fact, this phenomena does not seem to be confined to genealogy professors, but it seems to be the case with professors from all of the university departments I come in contact with. I have not made any kind of systematic study of the issue, so my opinion is based on personal contact with the professors et al.

I would assume that they ignore blogs for some of the same reasons I ignore nearly everything on and other social networking websites. There is obviously a degree of irony in that on, I am very highly rated for social media and social networking above almost all other skills and endorsements. I ignore social media because of its lack of content. I do check it from time to time to stay in touch with some of my family members who seem to live there.

Having made this observation, I turn to my usual habit of doing some real research on the subject to see if my observations are correct. The first study I found was a Pew Research Center, Internet, Science and Tech report entitled, "Social Media Usage: 2005-2015." For those more academically inclined, here is the official citation:

Andrew Perrin. “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, October 8, 2015.

Not surprisingly, social media usage has increased dramatically over the past decade (I wish people would pay me to make these kinds of studies). On conclusion of the study was the following:
Those with higher education levels and household income lead the way – Over the past decade, it has consistently been the case that those in higher-income households were more likely to use social media.
Hmm. Well, my comment would be that professors aren't particularly paid as much as their counterparts in private industry, so there might be some correlation but the conclusion does not seem to contradict my own observations. However, another more specific conclusion was the following:
Those With Higher Education Levels More Likely to be Social Media Users
Those who have attended at least some college are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to use social media, a trend that has been consistent since 2005.
Well, that would seem to be a direct contradiction to my own observations. But then again, I was looking at professors who read genealogy blogs and since hardly anyone who is not an avid genealogist and glued to their computer would even think about reading a genealogy blog, my observations may still be valid. Like when I was in court, never give up when the facts seem to be going against you, you never know how they might turn out in the end.

Here is another study.

“U.S. Facebook Reach by Education 2015 | Statistic.” Statista. Accessed February 19, 2016.

Again, there seemed to be a very slight correlation between education level and an increase in the usage of social media. So I was back to another Pew Research Center study entitled, "Social networking sites and our lives." Well, it turns out from this study that my observation has more to do with age than it does with education level or employment by a university. Social networking is dramatically more variable by age than by educational level. In fact, the optimal age of social networking users tops out for users in their early thirties, before most Ph.d candidates have finished their degrees and become professors. But the statistics did show a much lower level of social media usage by those with graduate degrees. Success at last. In fact, the statistics clearly show that a very high percentage of older users never visit social media sites.

So my bias was because I am a genealogy blogger, I see everything in terms of genealogy when the real, underlying reasons for lack of involvement depended on age and education level. Sometimes when you have an opinion, it is a good idea to get a reality check.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting topic. But the general social media stats regarding education and age correlations here likely are not applicable to the much narrower topic you are addressing.

    I daresay genealogists have different demographics and social media use than the norm. Academics different again. And genealogy academics may have their own.

    So I think those studies only give the broad generalities, and not the answers to your specific questions.

    Quantcast gives specific demographics for my site. Visitors are very heavily weighted in favor of being older, more educated, higher income and having an affinity to genealogy.

    So somehow, a different sort of survey is needed to find the real answer to your question.