Thursday, July 11, 2019
Coming to Terms With Social Media
When it comes to getting social, I'm all about the "-ize." And I'm concerned that we have begun using social media as an excuse for not actually going out to, you know, socialize.
Yesterday, a fellow genealogical society board member and I went on an idea-gathering mission and visited a neighboring society. After the meeting concluded, we had a chance to visit with the leaders of that group. Talk turned to discussion of yet another genealogy group whose leadership was frankly worn out from years of uninterrupted service and who teetered on the precipice of shuttering their operation.
Situations like that always invite comments on succession planning and other administrative oversights, of course, but another possibility for languishing organizations could have been the current trend away from in-person meetings and towards online connections. Everything from computer-based access to digitized records to online "hangouts" to social media sites hosting "groups" online seemingly have conspired to displace the face-to-face meeting.
On our hour-long drive home, I couldn't help but think of all the younger genealogy researchers I have met over the years. Most of them are working moms whose family and careers rightly demand more of their time than any spare moments they can afford for genealogy. Some of them are teachers or business owners—people for whom spare time comes, well, sparingly.
The thing is, of all these people I enjoy having met and talked with, not a one of them was a person I would have otherwise met than through one specific nexus: we made each other's acquaintance at a genealogy meeting. Not a one of them are people I've met face-to-face after having met them online. It was thanks to that apparently dying breed—the genealogy conference—that I've met all of them.
Face to face meetings grant us something that I've seldom seen in "social" media venues: time to socialize. Granted, yes, I suppose I'll eventually learn to entirely substitute a phone or a laptop for an actual face looking into mine, but I'm pretty sure I will miss out on all the people who I could have met, if we all kept up the habit of gathering ourselves together. Perhaps the social media habit is just something we'll have to learn to do just to get by—if, that is, genealogy conferences and even local meetings become the extinct entity trends seem to predict.