I can now admit to being an early ‘adopter’ of the use of Facebook, now one of the most popular social media tools in use. For a long time I felt like I was the oldest person on the planet to have a Facebook account. It was almost embarrassing when I told family, friends, and colleagues of my Facebook use. My reason for using Facebook was simple – it helped me keep an ‘eye’ on and stay connected to my children who were living in different locations, busy studying or starting out with efforts to establish their toehold in life.
Well, times have changed. Oh, I still stay connected to my kids in addition to many family members have been added to the mix. The biggest change however is that I use Facebook to help me stay current in the genealogy world! It is not the only tool I use for this purpose but it is one of the most frequently used in my genealogy ‘toolbox.’
Much of my experience in genealogy is based on connecting. I do the research, well, because I love it. I’m intrigued with the information I find about my ancestors, the good and the not so good. They are all part of the fabric that makes me, me. But I connect with family members who share an interest in the discoveries of our mutual ancestor’s lives. I connect with member of the genealogy community with whom I can share success-based techniques and tips, winning resources and tools, as well as useful information sources. This is where Facebook comes in for me.
Facebook, perhaps like all social media, allows me to “harness the wisdom of the crowd.” I don’t remember who said that or where I read it but it sums up nicely a chief benefit of what I call ‘Facebook Genealogy.’ If I have a genealogy problem that I am finding difficult to solve, one question thrown out to my Facebook genealogy friends and help arrives like the cavalry charging over the hill in an old western movie.
As important as the comfort of knowing that help is available might be, equally important to me and I hope to others is the ability to see and read those things that are of interest to my many genealogy friends. Seeing what professional or notable genealogist friends are learning from offers me an inherent mentorship of sorts in that I am being provided with a map to further genealogy learning opportunities I might not (maybe I should say probably wouldn’t) have found on my own. I find out about upcoming events, who is attending, the topics being covered along with the different means with which I might be able to participate, even from a distance.
Internet World Stats published statistics to the end of March 2011 showing that there are now more than 664 million Facebook users worldwide, meaning almost 10% of the world’s population are on Facebook. In North America, 50% of the population uses Facebook. In Canada, the percentage of the population using Facebook is 54.7% compared to 49.5% in the U.S.A. so there is still some room to grow.
Technology is moving us closer together rather than moving us further apart and while I can’t predict the next iteration of social media, it is clear to me that it will likely entail a technology that further enhances our “need for social interaction and collaboration” (T. MacEntee, N.Y. Times).