Facebook vs Mailing Lists

This is one of those posts that I want to write. But it’s been rewritten about so many times already (both on the computer and in my head), and renamed about twice that number. So maybe I should give up figuring that it’s just never meant to be. But I’m stubborn, and I want to have my say on this, so I shall persevere, and see if I ever get to hit the “publish” button.

So here goes … Facebook vs Mailing Lists!  Or more to the point the usefulness of Facebook groups verses mailing lists. Have I got your attention?

Now I’ve been an advocate of genealogy and Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I still am, as there’s heaps of useful groups and pages that you can follow. Just type Facebook in my search box, and you’ll find a bunch of articles I’ve written about it. So there’s no doubt about that. But … yes there’s a BUT, I have two big beefs with them.

  • Firstly, they don’t last. If you read something on a group or page, and the want to find it again, it’s like looking for the matching odd sock. Yes, near impossible.  Or photos … a group puts a picture up a few days ago, you saw it on your feed as you scrolled though. Then you want to refind it. Firstly which group or page was it on? That is a good question. But then secondly depending on how active the group or page is, you could be scrolling back a long way! And I know I’ve given up doing exactly that.
  • And my second beef is that only people who are on Facebook get to see it. And believe it or not, not everyone is on Facebook.

So as a long-term resource I am having serious doubts about Facebook. Yes there are literally throusands of groups and pages out there, with new ones appearing each day, BUT as a long-term resource Facebook doesn’t cut it for me.

I first started thinking about this in relation to my own Gumeracha and District Past and Present Facebook page. I felt that putting all the photos up there was rather limiting, because it only reaches people who are on Facebook, so I’m working through various alternate options with that.

But bringing the topic back to mailing lists etc., Facebook posts aren’t indexed or archived. Mailing lists are. And the advantage of that was proved by the fact that I was was contacted by someone out-of-the blue about 6 years after I put a query up on a message board. It was indexed, so they found me (and  I hadn’t changed my email address)!

And just in case you’re wondering what I mean by the term “mailing lists”, it’s those that you subscribe to so you can ask a query, and all who are subscribed to that list get an email with your query, like the RootsWeb mailing lists. If you haven’t discovered them yet, head on over to RootsWeb and have a browse. There’s currently over 32,000 lists there. All free. You just need to subscribe to those relating to your interest.


I am a subscriber to about 20 or so RootsWeb mailing lists, and have joined a number of Facebook groups and pages as well. And I have noticed that the number of posts/requests on RootsWeb mailing lists has dropped, while those on Facebook groups has increased. There has been a definite trend. So yes, Facebook is where people are at this very moment (though even that seems to be less than it was a year or two ago), but mailing lists are where people will find you in the future.

So my suggestion is to not give up on mailing lists yet! Maybe you should consider using both.

One Response to “Facebook vs Mailing Lists”

  1. Alona,

    The reasons you outline are precisely why I don’t like Facebook for Genealogy but I persevere because so many genies and groups have embraced it. I much prefer Google+ as a means of communication. I seem to be able to locate old posts there easier – maybe because it isn’t so busy.

    As for your Gumeracha collection I think a wiki would be a good platform for that. Did you happen to hear Thomas MacEntee’s talk on Wikis when he was on his cruise/tour? I am considering using a wiki for a collection of photos I inherited.

    Do you use Evernote? Perhaps you could clip those gems from Facebook straight into Evernote with the webclipper when you see them.

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