28 December 2012

Is Genealogy Networking Over-Rated?

Have we had too much of a good thing?

In the last five years there has been a proliferation of "networking" sites that allow genealogists to interact with each other in a variety of real time ways--both synchronously and asynchronously. I'm not going to list all those sites or options here. My concern is whether all this ability to interact is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle. I'm not opposed to interacting with other genealogists and I'm certainly not opposed to writing about our research, either formally or informally.

The concern I have is that social networking can take a great deal of time and it can distract us from the research that has gotten some of involved in social networking in the first place. There is also the assumption, on the part of some, that "if I network enough, I'll get the answer to my question without really having to do the work myself" It's an extension to the belief that everything "is on the internet." It's also an extension of those who years ago thought the answer to everything was in a printed book and that courthouses were not necessary.

Genealogists with some experience under their belt know that everything is not online and that everything is not in print. They also know that networking will only get you so far--it's great for connecting with people who may have ideas that can help you, people who may have specific expertise, or people who may have access to difficult-to-obtain records. Networking usually doesn't eliminate the need to do actual work. Remember--no one is as interested in your ancestors as you are.

I'm not certain genealogy networking is over rated. What I am certain of is that we all need balance.

Those of us involved in genealogical education need to remind people that social networking, blogging, and all the other ways of "sharing online" are important, but they are a part of the research process, not a replacement for it. 

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