Internet, I owe you an apology.
Last week I was a little whiny about this whole Google+ thing. I’m having an extraordinarily busy summer, and the thought of taking time out to learn something new was daunting. Sometimes I feel like it’s so hard to keep up with new stuff that I just want to say, “Screw it” and go watch Law and Order instead. I also have kind of a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and the idea of having a second place to have to go and read about people’s religious and political views and watch them fight over stuff was just…ugh. No. No thank you.
So I whined. I whined on Facebook, and I whined on Twitter, and I whined at the dinner table.
But I tried it anyway, because it’s 2011 and giving up is just not a good option. Once you stop keeping up, it’s hard to catch up later. So I felt like I had to sign up for Google+ and at least try it out.
Bottom line: It’s okay. I like some things, and I don’t like other things. I don’t have any politics, religion, or Farmville in my stream yet, so that’s good. But I’m sorry I whined about it, because like all social media, you get from it what you put into it. It’s a tool. You use it the way you want to, and if you need to whine about it, you’re doing it wrong. I had forgotten that.
For me, though, the real story about Google+ is this:
In five days, I’ve connected with 177 genealogists. IN FIVE DAYS. That’s crazy…and that’s just the ones who connected to me. I haven’t had time to go and seek out the hundreds more who have already joined, in those same five days. None of my mom friends or HR friends or real-life friends have shown up there yet. It’s all genealogists.
There was a question about Google+ on the members-only email list for the Association of Professional Genealogists. I answered it, and as an afterthought, I offered Google+ invitations to anyone who wanted one. I expected maybe four or five replies. Instead, I have been busy for the past two days sending out invitations. I’ve lost count.
People think of genealogists as old, and in terms of the calendar, that’s true. Most of us are not spring chickens. But I think there’s a perception that those old genealogists aren’t into new stuff, and increasingly that’s just not true at all. I hear companies, individuals and associations (especially associations) saying they can’t do newfangled stuff because their members won’t like it, or they don’t want it, or it’s not worth the effort, or they don’t have time. I see advice for genealogists that talks about phone book listings. I think there’s a bit of deafness to the fact that many, many genealogists are actually early adopters who want new stuff, new ideas, new ways of communicating and connecting and marketing themselves. Even in the few months since RootsTech, their number seems to have grown. Companies and associations that don’t change (and fast!) are going to quickly find themselves irrelevant to a large chunk of the genealogical community.
This isn’t to say that every individual genealogist has to jump on the bandwagon. If you don’t want to try out every newfangled thing in the first week, that’s absolutely fine. If you still want your association newsletters to come on paper, that’s fine too (although you ought to be paying a surcharge for the postage). If your marketing plan centers around a Yellow Pages listing, rock on. I believe there’s room for everyone in this tent, and I don’t think techies and non-techies need to be in conflict at all.
But I think many on the business and association side of genealogy are used to having a fairly narrow focus in terms of what their constituents and customers want. Get ready, because that’s changing. If your website has a phone number and a fax (!) number but no Facebook page or Twitter account, some people will move on. If you can’t accommodate the paper readers AND the Kindle readers…well, good luck with that, because there’s increasingly an unwillingness to settle for only the old ways as an option. These old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and they want help from their associations and educational programs to do so. If you can’t fill that need, they’ll find someone who will (and probably not by looking in the Yellow Pages).
And if you ARE someone who has been feeling lonely in your desire to move genealogy into the same modern sphere as the rest of your life, speak up. You have lots of friends. It’s pretty exciting.
NOTE: You can find me on Google+ here. If you join, make sure you fill out your profile with something to indicate you’re into genealogy, so that people know what circle to put you into. Google+ works a little differently than Facebook; when people get notice that you’re following them, they put you into a “Circle” right away. If they don’t know who you are, they won’t know where to put you…so you’ll go nowhere. So fill out your profile before you start connecting with people.