Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Social Media Over Social Distancing

It's Saint Patrick's Day, but there won't be any parades. They've been cancelled or at least, um, postponed. We've moved from advisories on hand washing and social distancing to lock-down orders shelter-in-place. It's another day with COVID-19 in America.

Among the many other cancelled shreds of everyday life, our genealogical society meeting for March got chopped. It's a small token of the willingness to "flatten the curve" to do our part in respect of our members' health needs. But it leaves us all, well, stuffed in our own corners of the world...apart.

As press release piled on press release and news of more dire limitations hit the airwaves, I realized we not only are cancelling our little educational outlet for sharing research techniques, by cancelling society meetings, we are also displacing an important social outlet for many of our members. I don't know about your local organizations, but our genealogical society is a very social group. We thrive on getting together, sharing our research victories, connecting with others who are fascinated by what fascinates us.

But we won't be doing that this month.

How to replace that "social" in the face of "social distancing" becomes the challenge. I can't help but feel the need to somehow connect with our members, despite the ban on connecting. Even if we can't get together literally—let alone reach out to give a hug—we can connect virtually. We can put to good use the many ways of connecting over social media.

Of course, there's one drawback to that social media idea. Ever since politics took over the social media world, I've vacated that virtual universe. And now would not be a healthy time to expose anyone to more vitriol. But how to connect without utilizing the tools already in place? Perhaps we can all take back that common space, one by one, through turning the tide on negative blather. Let positive, helpful, encouraging, uplifting fill the space. There is no time like now, when people need a word to lift them up. Especially when everyone is so disconnected through physical isolation.

With those thoughts running through my mind, it was so encouraging to see a Tweet by photographer/speaker/documentarian/genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith of BlackProGen. She had the energy and determination to put the right spin on this current situation in the face of the negative unfolding all around us.

If nothing else, I hope to follow that example, and connect with those who need that positive human touch right now. If nothing else, I hope others will take their cue from messages like this, too. If nothing else, I hope many will let what little part they play—while "stuck" at home with no other options—radiate out from them and bring a little encouragement to others, as well. We may be physically distant from each other, but more than ever, it's a time we need to bring out the human "touch" to make a difference for each other.


  1. The virus has slowed us all down. Perhaps your Group could do a private facebook page ...I belong to several groups only open to those with a similar interest...in my case Crochet and knitting:) Yes when I heard this morning that California was sheltering in place I though of you. Good thing we live in the boonies as our place can be quite large:)

    1. That's a good point, Far Side. Our society did set up a place to communicate on social media--only in our case, we created a Facebook group rather than a page. That way, we can close it so that only people interested in genealogy are part of the conversation (although anyone who asks to join is welcomed in). We don't even limit our Facebook group to society members--you could even join it, if you wanted :)


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