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31 October 2014

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Social Media

Trees and cloudy skySocial media is any website and related software that allows people to communicate with each other and share information. We can find friends and relatives; stay in touch with them; share news, family trees, stories, photos, and videos; find useful information for our research; and be an active part of as many communities as we care to join.

This blog is mostly about social media and how it can help family historians to communicate, collaborate and share with other historians and members of their families.

It also delves into more general computer topics such as family tree software and the technology we can use to make our research and communication easier and more fun.

Different types of social media

Social media sites can be divided into three main categories:

Communication is much more immediate if all participants are using the same site all at once, and can see what the others are doing as they are doing it. Someone types a message, the others can all see it at once and respond. It is much quicker than waiting for an email. An email conversation can take all day. Young people don’t use email. They have grown up with these social media websites, and take them for granted.

Sharing of large and complex files and databases is much easier and more convenient over the internet. If you wanted me to see your family tree it is much easier for you to give me access to your site on the internet than to send me the whole thing by email. Photos, videos, and catalogues can all be shared much more easily this way, and allow for discussion in which every interested person can take part.

Collaboration involves participating with others in the building of something that wasn’t there before. One person writing articles, answering questions, or rating products can do wonders, but many people doing the same thing gives a more balanced, more accurate view. The result is better information for all of us.

How I use social media

Since I started using social media regularly I have:

  • kept in more constant contact with relatives
  • found new relatives and gotten to know them as old friends
  • found information about new family history resources much more quickly
  • found new avenues for research
  • improved my writing about my family research

From an initial toe in the water with my first blog in 2006 I have jumped in with both feet, with ownership or responsibility for five blogs (and counting!), three Facebook pages, and four Twitter accounts. I am subscribed to at least thirty blogs and I follow more than 200 people on Twitter. I don’t read everything all of these people produce every day, but I always learn something when I do.