Friday, August 1, 2008

Why Facebook?

Yes, Facebook can be confusing, and a distraction, and a bit silly, and even overwhelming at times, but it does have great potential for all of us. It's the virtual equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce mixer or a membership social - only it never ends.

Jasia's Carnival of Genealogy was the first step the genealogy community took in online socializing. The comments and emails generated from each edition of the carnival helped to develop friendships across the miles. Miriam's Scanfest kicked that up a notch. Now, with Facebook, we have the ability to develop significant relationships with others in the genealogy community. Yes, this can increase traffic to my blog or help me find a research cousin, but I personally look forward to just "talking" to others who understand and appreciate my fascination with dead relatives.

For the last couple of weeks I've been bombarded with friend requests and suggestions for friends. For the most part, I've just added them as friends and gone on my merry way. Now, it's time to start getting to know these people and developing a relationship that's more than a connection between one profile and another. Introduce yourself to one of these friends and learn more about that person. Then, do it again and again.

A couple of tips on socializing in the virtual world:
  • Virtual conversations aren't always real time. You send me a note which I may not see for hours and then not respond until even later. Don't feel slighted if you don't get an immediate response to a message or inquiry. I may be at work, cooking dinner or whatever. Even if you can see that I'm online, I could be involved in something and don't want to be distracted. This doesn't mean I don't want to chat - just that I don't have time right this minute.
  • Don't take it personally if someone isn't interested in virtual gifts or hugs or whatever.
  • I enjoy the newsy chit-chat everyone posts, but please remember that Facebook is a social site not a research site. I love to hear about a new online archive or digital collection, but once your news item moves down the continual stack of news and notifications will anyone ever see that link again? In addition to your Facebook news flash, post it permanently somewhere it can easily be referenced anytime. For links to useful online resources, try the Genealogy Resources group at Diigo or USGenWeb or Cyndi's List or all of the above.
Now that things have settled down a bit, it's time to build our community. Yes, it will take time away from your research, but I can guarantee you'll find it worth the effort.

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