Facebook vs Face to Face
OK so is Facebook useful for family history research?
It seems like everyone is on Facebook these days but that’s not really true. Even with 1.11 billion users (active March 2013), I still know a few die-hard anti-Facebook people. I know just as many that have a profile that is locked down so no strangers can peek in and they only have a handful of close friends added.
I think if I wasn’t doing the family tree, I would be one of the latter. I’m not one to post a lot of frilly, frivolous quotes and random pictures to brighten people’s day. In the beginning I played some of the online games and added a bunch of the social apps but now I have cut this back to just about nil.
My page has currently 459 friends. Now I’m the first to admit that I don’t have anywhere near that many friends and would only see a small handful of them face-to-face in any given year. Most I have never met face-to-face and probably never will.
The family tree page has 198 LIKES, which is a great start but I would love that number to be much higher. Getting the LIKES has proven more difficult than getting people to accept a friend request from a total stranger. Go figure!
So why have the Facebook pages if I don’t use them for normal social media type fluff… I’m sure that fans will have a million reasons why Facebook “Rules” but maybe a few family researches, genealogists or even business owners that are not using Facebook now may like to know why I do.
Some reasons – not in any particular order:
- Get my research in people’s faces.
- Have contact with outer branches of the family that I would not normally get to see.
- Its the modern version of the family grapevine.
- Feel connected.
- Overcome geographical issues to stay connected.
- Share family photos and get help identifying people and places in the photos.
- Organise actual face-to-face visits.
- Don’t miss out on events like births, marriages and deaths.
- Get to know people from a distance.
- Be able to help other researchers.
I would recommend Facebook to anyone that is researching family history but…. like any business, you need to remember that your client is always judging you. Unless you have a very specific agenda to aggravate and isolate yourself, you need to stay out of issues, don’t post your dirty laundry, and allow others to be themselves without pushing your views on them too hard.
Why? – I have seen Facebook bite, and it bites hard. You don’t want to be on the receiving end or even in the middle of a drama by an online friend or group that has targeted you or your research in a negative way.
I’m happy to post a topic and sit back and watch if it’s of any interest to others and to allow them to get into a debate about the pros and cons. I see myself as the overseer or recorder of results and outcomes. I don’t get to have the strongest say on the day. My reward is a better understanding of the facts or feelings and maybe a good direction to follow in my research.
Now is it wrong to use Facebook in this way?
Maybe using it as a tool, for research and information gathering, is not directly what the masses use it for. I’m sure it’s possibly being used in much more sinister ways than I would ever think of. I do agree that people need to think before they post things for all to see. Crooks, stalkers, employers, police, government agencies or maybe even your ex might be looking in to see what you’re up to. I’m the least of your problems in this new online social media world… but remember I’m also making a big effort to privatise any information I hold on living people, so anything I do see you post wont show up now, but maybe consider that it may show up as part of your family history after your dead and gone. – Please think before you post.
And to the die-hard anti-Facebook readers amongst you, I respect your reasons and I’m not looking to encourage you to join. I would, however, still like to encourage you to view the family tree and welcome any information you have, maybe as a Pen pal, ePal or even a good old face-to-face get together for coffee.
Until we meet online or face to face, happy hunting!