Facebook Family: Preserving Your Family Tree Through Social Media

This post is a guest post from Joe Baker, a long time reader of this blog and as I think you can see, a great writer. Moving forward, I’m going to start featuring more guest bloggers. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, just send me a post you’d like to submit to jesse@staynalive.com and I’ll consider your post (no guarantees it will go live!). I always give credit with a link back to your site or blog.

Before making a monumental move from the Midwest to take a job in the great white northeast, I found myself sitting in a mostly packed living room waiting for the movers to arrive, load my life into their truck and drive it across the country. While kicking a roll of tape back and forth, I noticed an unsealed box with no label. Horror! Obviously, I could not let this pass; how would I know where to unpack the box if it didn’t say what was inside?
After investigating the box, I discovered it was filled with family pictures dating back to my parents’ childhood. “How did I get this box?” was the first question, quickly followed by, “how can I share this with everyone?” Lucky for me, I live in the 21st century, an era where the planet stays the same size, and yet the world is constantly shrinking.
After buying a cheap negative scanner, I scanned and uploaded all the pictures to Flickr, then sent the slideshow link to the extended family. The photos included pictures of my now elderly aunts and uncles as children growing up in Michigan and northern Iowa; photos none of them had seen in decades were now available to them with the click of a button.
The growth and increasing reach of personal communications technology is astounding. With at least 4.6 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world (http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-10454065-78.html) it hasn’t been easier to keep in touch with family than it is now. Additionally, social networks like Facebook provide 600 million users with a platform for sharing information, chatting in real time and showcasing pictures to share with family.
The great unifying force of the Internet is news to few in a world where even young children maintain Internet personas. For some babies, the first thing they see as they emerge into this world is an iPhone camera lens snapping their picture and uploading directly to one of the myriad social networks available. It’s much easier for people to access and share information about family with family, and families who move around frequently stand to gain the most from the way social connectivity is evolving. And who moves more than a military family?
Growing up with a parent in the Navy, I had many opportunities to travel. The privilege of this was unfortunately lost on me, because every move meant losing good friends and having to make new ones. Now kids can easily keep in contact with their friends on one side of the world, long after having moved to another. I know whole extended families that use computers for two things: Skype and Facebook, the former to read about the lives of family members and the latter to hear updates from the horse’s mouth. Three years on a base in Germany, isn’t as devastating to family connections when you can broadcast your face via Skype and life minutiae via Twitter.
After loading the photos to Flickr, I chose a select few to post on Facebook, where most of my family spends their Internet lives. After some tagging, many family members came out of the woodwork. Reading the comments was like going to a reunion and memories came rushing back to folks. Stories about long lost family members poured forth for all the younger generations to read and participate in. It was a really fascinating thing to watch.
So I’m glad that in spite of the inherent hassles of moving, I was able to pull something valuable out of it that not only gave me insight into the family history, but was something the rest of the clan could see and interact with thanks to the magic of the internet! 
This post is a guest post from Joe Baker, a long time reader of this blog and as I think you can see, a great writer. Moving forward, I’m going to start featuring more guest bloggers. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, just send me a post you’d like to submit to jesse@staynalive.com and I’ll consider your post (no guarantees it will go live!). I always give credit with a link back to your site or blog.
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