During last week's Jamboree conference in southern California, I noticed one thing: I barely managed to Tweet one item.
Yes, me. Actually, I haven't posted on Twitter much for the past several months. Nor on Facebook. As far as connectivity goes, I guess I've been losing my touch.
Wondering whether that might have been the case for other Jamboree attendees, I took a look at the official hashtag designation on Twitter, #SCGS2017. After all, despite thirty minute breaks between each conference session, I found myself running all day long, every day. Besides taking notes, checking the online download of syllabus material for each class, making conversation with fellow attendees, and cruising the exhibit hall, I hardly had time to think of anything else, much less talk about what I was doing.
Perhaps the classes were packed with more noteworthy material this year? I did find plenty of stuff to write down—but that sort of one-liner entries makes for more Twitter-worthy fodder than the mug shot plus look-which-class-I'm-attending-now comments. In my book, Twitter should be a conversation, not a monologue. So why couldn't I post a few entries of my own? Was I really that breathless and focused on just being there?
When I gave that social media question some thought—admittedly, in the relatively rare lulls encountered in the week's proceedings—I couldn't help but dwell on Thomas MacEntee's very depressing assessment of the State of Blogging:
Over the past two years I have been able to document a notable decline in genealogy blog traffic while at the same time a greater increase in social media traffic by genealogists and family historians.
Granted, my main focus when reading Thomas' statement was his report of the "notable decline" in blog traffic. For a blogger, that sort of report hits hard. After all, this is a blog you are reading. If enough of you don't bother coming by here anymore, I might not have enough of an audience to want to continue using this blog as my virtual stage. I do, if you haven't noticed, enjoy having an audience.
However, there have been other eras in flux, in which the then-current technology has been forecast as doomed to fall into disrepair and neglect. Technologies come and go—even books have been predicted to be among the formats soon to be forsaken. Besides, in the MacEntee assessment, Thomas did later add, "Blogging is not dead; it's just that the blog post itself cannot garner enough traffic without social media as a partner."
So what about that social media? Yeah, those Tweets I didn't churn out throughout that information-ripe weekend conference run. What about that?
While analysis of data will always trump a snap decision about what's current, I can't help but recoil from such assessments. Statements have come and gone about what's hot and what's not—even genealogy itself has taken the heat for sliding numbers in the past, with predictions that the "fad" will eventually lose traction. In our increasingly niche-market-inspired world, though, it's my guess these dire predictions won't turn out quite as assumed.
In some cases, we might see either-or yield to both-and scenarios: books and e-books, blogs and Facebook, in an ever-expanding information market. On the flip side, with ever-shrinking free time versus expanding content, perhaps it will become the battle between doing and being. After all, I can't get much actual, you know, work done while I'm posing for selfies in all the right places.
Then, too, there is a difference between what's possible to achieve as a content generator and what's possible to consume as a media customer. As the media ramps up more dense information squeezed into the same space, it becomes harder to dive for deeper meaning per unit of time invested. The more information coming at us at the same time, the less of the message we are able to grasp per information unit.
Perhaps what Mr. MacEntee is really signifying by his dismaying assessment last month is that the kind of blog traffic which would generate click-throughs to other material (most likely ads) has, for online content entrepreneurs, gone down. In other words, the type of reader who lands on one virtual property but can be quickly lured away by a bright-shiny to another web space is now failing to show up in sufficient numbers on blogs-as-commercial properties.
Breathe a sigh of relief, all ye who blog for altruistic purposes. Your goals are not the same. It is still okay to generate content for purposes other than income generation—especially in the traditionally giving field of family history. It is still okay to think large thoughts and transmit them in mere, humble words. It is still just fine to take the time to craft your work unhampered by the kind of frenetic multi-tasking said to assure simultaneous appearance in all the "right" virtual places.
Doing a project takes time. Often, that action cannot yield sufficient results when sabotaged by demands to simultaneously talk about what you are doing. Sometimes, it's got to be do first, then talk later. If that's the way it was at a simple conference last week, it's surely the way it will be for the more significant accomplishments of life—at least, if we actually hope to ever make them.