The Facebook delusion


As mentioned in the last Cutlock & Co article A bunch of artists, I have recently added Facebook to the tool set used in finding relatives. Clearly this is mainly useful for living cousins etc. but the odd ancestral photo and possibly historic info can crop up too.

Facebook is however a weird beast where the etiquette can be far from clear. It is not an ideal medium for making new family contacts.

Illusions of Privacy

The first problem I have is the feeling of spying on what can seem like private chats between friends, family etc. but which are actually available to anyone signed up on the network. There are privacy controls, more obvious than they used to be but still often overlooked {3}. I guess where I get most uneasy is reading posts by teenagers – and younger, despite a supposed 13 years Facebook cut-off (from what I recall reading, but haven’t checked thoroughly). Although I have enjoyed some of the jokes {1}.

ancestry_capture130202

Ancestry even has a ‘is xyz on Facebook?’ link against anyone who might be living (initially shown to tree owners/editors only, see this info page ). All it does, however, is create a direct link to the person’s FB profile – it appears a lot of work to get a web link which could be easily copied and pasted instead.

Illusions of communication

In the same way that a popular TV presenter can get so familiar that you might greet them on the street, even though you’ve never met, there can be enough on a Facebook wall/profile to make you think you know them. Not knowing context etc. could lead to mis-reading and inappropriate messages. But that can be the same for any online social network.

Perhaps unique to Facebook is the way it splits messages into two piles – those from ‘friends’ and those from ‘others’. The latter are tucked away and can easily be overlooked (this is a regular topic on the Ancestry.co.uk Facebook page) {2}. What do you do then? Hassling people who just don’t want to know is not a good idea, but equally others may be delighted to get acquainted with family history when you do break through.

In practice

I’ve been amassing profile addresses – 40 so far (excluding those already ‘friended’) – and adding them to my reference spreadsheet. Most are from the Neal side in Canada, which includes the Gerrard, Nesbitt, Nymko surnames. Then there is the Kile branch, stemming from the Griffiths who moved from Merthyr to Wilkes-Barre. Plus a Flowerday in the US, and the Newstead/Hardy clan largely in Norfolk.

Just spotting the links between folk can be useful to confirm I’ve identified the right people in a family. I have also sent a few messages to the most closely related and where the info has led to an email address. Nothing back yet, but fingers crossed. And if any of you are reading this, comments or messages on Cutlock & Co are good, too!

Hiya Friends

Guess I have to finish with a “shout out” to the relatives I’ve already “friended” (other than brothers): sort-of-nephew Hugh, distant Beasor connection Shantel, half 3rd cousin Graham and his partner Paula, uncle’s cousin Janie, and just located on the site (but longer-term contact) 2nd cousin Kent.

Notes

1. A joke from an American youngster (works better in the chat format he’s used):

  • Haters gonna hate – yes
  • Waiters gonna wait – indeed
  • Alligators gonna alligate – !

Tomatoes gonna tomate? – now you’re pushing it.

2. Various ways to find the ‘Other’ messages on Facebook. I usually go to the Messages link under Favourites and then click on Other. The Messages button on the top bar also has a ‘See All’ link on its drop-down.

3. A week after publishing this, I’ve found a likely relation who has clearly checked her privacy settings, but unfortunately they prevent me from contacting her at all. So if Robin (Burgh) Wetherley is reading this, please get in touch!

2 thoughts on “The Facebook delusion

    1. Hi Robin, thanks for the response. The About page gives some idea of who I am, but I’ll drop you an email with fuller details of our possible connection. If I have got it right, we could be third cousins – Osborne/Taylor line.

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