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.


  1. I enjoy reading your posts, thank you for taking the time to write. Today's post was particularly apropos to any group that meets regularly and wants to sustain itself with new members. I write a newsletter for my local (Columbus, Ohio) African Violet Society and would like to include your post. Would you consider giving permission to reprint your post for this purpose? Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for asking, Madelyn! I found your contact information through your Society's website and have emailed you there. My thoughts are with you for organizational succession planning--currently a challenge for many local organizations--and also because Columbus is part of my "roots" as well.

  2. It can work both ways. I'm part of a few successful groups who communicate almost totally online, but also meet face to face. I find both of these modes crucial for a successful organization. Facebook groups and the like which never meet face-to-face will eventually die or have all the "old" members replaced by new ones. That's OK, but it is a much impoverished experience compared to making actual friends with whom you can break bread together.

    1. That's an interesting point, Valorie. Our local society has started a private Facebook group, which we intended not only for members to use, but to also be used as an outreach, so it includes anyone interested in genealogy in our area.

      Just last week, I floated the question, "Anyone in town want to meet up for coffee?" Got several positive responses, including from people who are solely on the Facebook group (not society members). It will be interesting to meet them, face to face. Now, I'm curious to see if that will have a different impact on who remains only in the online group, and who makes the jump to start attending our monthly meetings as well.


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