Saturday, July 11, 2020
It's the middle of July, time for many genealogical societies to take a midsummer break, and yet, something different is happening this year. Some groups are continuing their meeting schedule into the summer months. Why? Because, as one member put it in a text to me this week, "I miss everyone!"
It might seem that the typical genealogical society member would be on the far end of the spectrum from the technology enthusiast, but somehow, they are now learning how to swim in these uncharted waters. Funny how the need to connect can find ways to adapt, despite mandated isolation.
After cancelling our first meeting in, likely, ever last March, our local society tried this new service called Zoom. Despite the board's misgivings about how many people we'd see at our first virtual event—our society's program director and I guessed the number would be approaching zero—we were pleasantly surprised with a healthy showing, including members from far out of town who would otherwise not be able to attend in person.
As the months wore on with no apparent solution to the pandemic threat, we found ourselves, as a board, devising more ways to connect with our members. We re-activated special interest groups and even began a new one. We asked for volunteers to help us test the technology waters so we could try out the other features of our newfound online presence, and experimented with using "breakout rooms"—and fell in love with the possibilities for interactive experiences.
While we were trying out our technology wings, our society's board was also looking around to glean ideas from neighboring societies. Perhaps because we always assume the grass is greener over yonder, we thought those other folks would have far better ideas than we did. But, to our surprise, we discovered that there are still some societies out there which chose to run in the opposite direction, closing shop and taking a hiatus until the threat cleared.
They may be waiting for a long time.
In the meantime, are we being gluttons for the possible? We have found yet another way to gather our members together online, and are launching a second event for each month—at least for the summer, billing the extra meeting an experiment. But what if everyone likes the experiment? This is certainly an unexpected way to expand our services.
The current pandemic may have caused myriad troubles for some—with small local businesses permanently shuttering their doors, and large corporations threatening massive employee layoffs. But in other ways, necessity has indeed once again become the mother of invention.
In this case, we have been so starved for human interaction that we are satisfied to see each others' faces in two-by-one squares checkered across our computer monitors. It's not exactly my idea of reaching out and touching someone, but it certainly suffices. "I miss everyone" turns out to be a sentiment which currently resonates with a lot of people.