Saturday, September 24, 2011

Soapbox Saturday

Once in a while (like if there's a moon or sun or cloud in the sky) I pretend I'm standing on Hyde Park Corner railing against whatever power has sparked my wrath.

An aside - my husband's friends had a game they played when we were in college. It was a contest to see who could get me up to a full head of steam the fastest. It never took long. Phil was the champion.

The sun's peeking through the clouds today and there are issues taking up enough mental energy that I cannot focus on my goals. Lucky you!

First the easy one. This is Banned Books Week. YouTube is featuring short readings on the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out channel. Included are excepts from children's classics and many books I read growing up. Books that have lingered in my memory far longer than others. Books that forced me to examine my own life and the world around me. Clearly dangerous.

I have to share my shock (channeling Claude Rains here) at the announcement that Russia's President Medvedev wants Putin to run in 2012. Not much can make me look favorably on our own political morass, but Dmitry pulled it off.

As to our own body politic - not going there. Ditto the economy.

Which leaves me with ... Facebook. I'll try and keep this short, but you might want to get comfortable.

I was slow to see the value of social media. It took my far-flung family sharing photos of weddings and babies to get me onto Facebook. I pleaded for photos to be emailed to no avail. So I caved. Then I began to add genealogy friends, getting  to "know" the people behind the blogs I so enjoy. I drank the Kool Aid and loved it.

For those of us passionately interested in areas that bore our real world friends to tears, who don't always fit in the slots we occupy, social media is a chance to connect with those who share our passions. I've gotten great advice, encouragement, even prayers when needed from people I may never see face to face. It's gotten to feel like Cheers - a spot where everybody knows your name.

Yes, I know it's a public forum and that anything I post could be shared or broadcast the world over. I am reasonably circumspect - no photos of drinking games or silly hats or wet t-shirts (that would be a picture!). I don't check in or use Foursquare. Don't broadcast my occasional Scrabble triumphs or "like" dozens of pages. But I do chat. And tease. And vent. Things I might do sitting on a bus, or at a bar knowing the people around me could overhear. Things I'm MUCH less likely to do with a camera pointed straight at me recording and broadcasting my every movement to the world. There is a difference between knowing my chatter could be public if another person was determined to seek it out (a talent my geneafriends have, I might add) and having it presented to anyone walking by - now or ten years hence. Instead of having a bit part in Cheers, I'm suddenly in The Truman Show.

My readers and genealogy buddies know how tentatively I've gone public. It was over a year before I wrote using my own name. There is no post-1960 photograph of me here. I don't even do frequent whatever clubs because I don't like the information being tracked.

Yet I persuaded myself that Facebook was a safe place where I could keep up with family and get to know other genealogists. I no longer believe that to be true. I have removed the link to my Facebook profile from this blog. I plan to limit my contacts to family and intimate friends (though I hope I can persuade them to leave).

So where does that leave me? I drank the Kool Aid, remember. I like the virtual social relationships I've formed. It leaves me with Google+.

My initial reaction was that was too public, that I wanted more "privacy". Delusional. Repeat after me. There is no privacy online. If I want virtual relationships I need to realize they are public. That said, every Google+ post includes a choice of who to share it with AND the ability to prevent it being further shared. Do I want my comments about the St. Louis Cardinals or a local art show to go to everyone? Do all the genealogists I "know" need to see my chatter with the few I have a more personal relationship with? Do I share political links with the world or only those I'm hoping to convert? It's not a bad thing to pause and think about who I'm talking to.

It's taken time to set up my Google+ circles. I'm still thinking about how I receive and share posts. But I'm the one making the decisions, deciding on the limits of the relationships. If there were a Facebook "like" button I'd push it.


These posts are worth looking at if you want to read more about the changes at Facebook:

If you're curious about Google+ check out these links or pull up a bar stool and find me there. The first drink's on me.

Photo credit: By Shuttleworth Foundation via Flickr.


  1. Well done, well thought out. Rant over, lets start being silly over at G+, see ya in my Friends circle!

  2. I love the The Truman Show analogy. I am still trying to figure out where I'm going with fb but I'm leaning toward where you are. leaning way over that way!

  3. This was just so well put, thank you for saying what I've been thinking in fragments. I am a lot like you, I love having virtual friends who share my interests but - goodness, I am worried about sharing stuff after 1910! And am a really private person IRL anyway. I just joined Google+ today (I am Lidian over there BTW, what a surprise!) - I am SO tired of FB and I can't keep anyone straight on it anymore and - well, what you said.

  4. Dear Susan....Thanks for saying it better than I could have, my Tennessee genealogy friend. I am proud to be in your circle. I am not happy with FB these days and I agree with Carol...lets be G+ sillies where it's a little safer to be silly!

  5. Susan - yes, yes, yes, yes! ! !
    Buh-bye, Facebook! Hello, google +!

  6. It's odd ... I hadn't consciously thought about it, but I just realized that over the last week I've been on Google+ about three times, but haven't been on Facebook at all except when I clicked on notifications for the "Hey, I'm from Seymour!" group (yeah, I'm in some really cool groups there). And before that I started just checking up on friends and relatives instead of reading my news stream. It is becoming less and less useful.

  7. I'm out on google+ now. I'll have to find you.

  8. I haven't taken the Google+ plunge yet, but you've made a good case for it. Maybe I need to take some time to set up an account and explore it. Thanks for giving me a push. BTW, I think you'd do great at Hyde Park Corner!

  9. Susan,
    I so enjoyed this post before my second cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. In addition to your thoughts about facebook and google+, I could so identify with what you said about not being able to focus on your goals. I'm torn in too many directions right now.

  10. Haven't gotten on Google +, but still in my love/hate relationship with Facebook. I usually on check in there about once a week, and am increasingly annoyed with the fact that the dang website sends me emails to prompt me to log in...

    Am reading your links now.


Comments related to the information shared here are most appreciated. All comments are moderated, and since I am not actively researching right now it many take a day or two for your comment to post. Please know that it will post, and that I much appreciate the feedback.