Thursday, February 19, 2009

To FB or Not to FB

Notwithstanding a recent move that seems to be a backing down on the part of Facebook, it appears that many users, including Genea-bloggers, are deactivating or at least considering deactivating their Facebook accounts.

I probably won’t be one of them. Not that I disagree with those who do – their beef is legitimate, and I agree that Facebook has bungled this issue in a major way. And I’ll probably be a little less free in posting some of the documents I have been transcribing. But Facebook is a good fit for me. Not that I’m one of those people with 100+ friends (or, as in the case of my daughters’ generation, 500+ friends!). As of last count, I have 30 friends. That’s family (husband, one of my daughters, in-laws, cousins), friends, schoolmates, and comrades from the genea-blogging community. These are all people I want to keep up with, to know what and how they are doing. And most of them are more diligent about FB-ing than e-mailing, so this works for us. A few are the other way around, and we e-mail. I still love getting what I have come to call a “real” letter, i.e., a nice e-mail that in length and content resembles the snail-mail letter of old.

I’m not one of those people who makes a lot of status posts (“Greta is … clipping her toenails.”), but I do like to share some things – a good visit with friends or family, a productive Graveyard Rabbit expedition, or a sighting of bald eagles. And I definitely want to hear from my college daughter – through checking out her FB page, posting, or IM’ing with her on FB. That’s another thing I like about Facebook – it appeals to younger and older generations, is not too “old-fogyish” for young people or too “skanky” for older people. I also post some of my favorite ethnic music clips from YouTube there to share with friends and to listen to myself when I am on the computer.

I’m not a professional genealogist or in some other profession that can benefit from networking, so the only thing I get from this type of networking is the pleasure of contact and correspondence – the social aspect – and, as a side benefit, an educational aspect as well. Lacking a professional need, I have been reluctant to subscribe to Twitter – I’m not saying I won’t eventually, especially if I feel I’m missing out on something - but corresponding and blogging keep me pretty busy. On top of that, I have problems with that whole 140-character limit thing.

Last August, when we had completed the college application and selection whirlwind and my research was beginning to take off again, I made a decision about how to share my research. I decided that there would be three levels:

1. The most general outlines would be published in a blog, through which I hoped to contact other people researching in the same areas and other bloggers who would share their experience and expertise. If people who read my blog wanted to receive more information on my research than I posted on the blog, they would have to contact me. If they don’t feel like contacting me, they are welcome to the information they find there nonetheless.

2. Somewhat more detailed information, particularly document transcripts, and family pictures would be posted on Facebook to share with family and friends and some of the distant cousins with whom I have been sharing research on a regular basis.

3. The really detailed information is shared with those among my family who are “really into” genealogy and with my regular “research buddies” through e-mail, as it was before.

I really love sharing genealogical research, both in the form of telling my relatives about what I have found, and actually working on problems together with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins. With a blog, people can take your information without contacting you and sharing what they have. With e-mail, I cannot always remember whom I have told and what, I can’t be sure that all the people I’m writing to are really interested, and I have to keep up with their e-mail addresses. So, without taking the place of blogging or e-mail, Facebook is a convenient “middle way” to share – it is a “window of possible interest” without being as invasive as e-mail or as broadcast-y as a blog. The photos-sharing part in particular has really taken off among my group of cousins.

Then there are certain groups I enjoy participating in – Genea-bloggers, Grave Mappers, Unclaimed Persons, and my high school band group.

Of course, Facebook could still screw all this up. The issue of ownership of content is not going to go away. I am glad that dissatisfied users are making their discontent felt one way or the other and I do plan to voice my criticism. And I’ll be keeping an eye on what I do post; I’ll probably return to e-mail for some of the meatier and juicier stuff.

[Note - immediately after I posted this I found a Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group on FB. Hmmm ... must mull this over.]


  1. Great post, Greta. It's a big issue and it will be interesting to see the long terms effects. I think I feel the same as you. I've always been pretty careful what I put on Facebook, but I find it a good way to connect with people who have the same interests as me. We'll keep watching!

  2. Nice to meet you Greta. I ate a bit of that cake and had to quit. It really will serve 2 people.
    I agree with you on this Facebook thing. People need to remember that anything they put on the internet is destined to be there forever when people save items and then they resurface later on.

  3. Well said. I'm inclined to feel the same way. My sisters, nieces, nephews, etc. really find it easy to keep up with one another on Facebook and several of us love to play Scrabble. In fact, Scrabble is the thing that drew us all there to begin with. But the genealogy group I've found there is an answer to prayers for me. If Facebook self-destructs we GeneaBloggers will still be able to connect, I'm sure. Right now, I'm staying.

  4. Well said, Greta and I feel the same way. I'm not a professional either, but sure enjoy the contact, support, education, information, sharing, notices of new things, all the good stuff of Facebook. It's a good fit for me too. In fact it's been a blessing. I've connected with so many relatives that I was not in touch with. Love it. Thanks for a great post. I'm glad I'm your friend!

  5. Thanks, all, for your wonderful comments and all the support you give me and other geneabloggers. JoLyn - whodathunk that this would have become such a big issue? I didn't see it coming. Lori - I'll have to make that cake when I know one of my daughters will be here to eat it with me. It looks almost as much fun to make as to eat. Judith - Scrabble, eh? Another temptation.... And Becky - Just tonight I connected with yet another cousin on FB - it's almost like the old days when my mother's family would all get together.

  6. I wish Facebook would just get it together and stop trying to own our stuff. But then again, anything on the internet will pretty much be there forever and even if copyrights exist, it is so easy to steal.
    I think I'll stay on Facebook, but limit what I do there. I can easily share pics and stories through email.
    Great post!

  7. I agree, Elyse. It's difficult to know what to post because of all the ownership questions. I'll still probably put pictures on Facebook, because that's an easy way for my cousins and me to exchange pictures and identify people for one another, but I'll be more careful about posting research and document transcripts.