Someone has created an application for Facebook that shows how your Facebook Friends are connected to each other. Here is my Facebook Friends Wheel. It shows who on my Friends list is a Friend of someone else on the wheel.
Then there is Twitter, where I've been a twit, er, a Tweeter, for only three about months. I use it as a shortcut to my Facebook pithy messages, and to post to the #genealogy group. Someone created an application that creates a photo montage of all of your Twitter Followers, and then a way to put it on the blog page, so I did that and you can see it on Genea-Musings by scrolling down past the Archives on the right margin. There's over 140 thumbnails of my Twitter Followers. It's like the Followers you see on other Blogger blogs (but notm ine...since i'm still using old Blogger).
Why be on Facebook and Twitter? The first and short answer is to "drive more readers to my blog." If I tweet "Randy posted about Ancestry.com's New Search, Exact Matches process - see http://tinyurl.com/d6m4m9," as I did at 4:25 pm today, a number of people see it on Twitter and on Facebook (since tweets end up as Facebook pithy comments too with another application) and click on the link to the blog post. Since being on Twitter, the unique visits to Genea-Musings have increased by about 50%.
I, and many other Tweeters, use http://www.tinyurl.com/ to limit the number of characters in an URL because Twitter has a limit of 140 characters per tweet.
There's a longer answer to the question, though. Being on Facebook and Twitter isn't just about being Friends with a lot of people and driving readers to my blog. There's a much more important reason: I accept the tenet that "genealogy needs to attract more young people" in order to continue to grow, and I think that social networking on sites like Facebook and Twitter are the way to do it. If you look at my Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, there are a lot of young faces. These people are the future leaders, writers, developers, and mainstays of the genealogy world. They need to be educated, supported, and challenged by the genealogy community. So - it's a way to bring technologically savvy people into the genealogy world.
I have no doubt that, at some point, we will get "Genea-Facebook" with applications specific for genealogists and family historians. When that happens, genea-networking will really take off, and the nidivduals, societies and the community will benefit and prosper.
My Facebook Friends share small moments of their lives with me and their other Facebook Friends. I share moments of my life with them. There are serious, funny and happy times and we are gradually building a community that cares and shares. I noticed it when I was in Salt Lake City last month - I met about 30 Facebook Friends during the five days. Several of them just walked up to me and said "hi Randy, we're Facebook Friends, and I read your posts and blog." It was neat, but my problem was putting a face to the name to the voice to the research interest as quickly as they did it with me!
The next big challenge may be getting Facebook groups for local or regional genealogical societies. How can a Facebook group be used to help bring society members, who may be leery of joining an online environment, into a secure social networking environment? How can we tap their energy and knowledge to help others in the group, the genealogy society or genealogy as a whole? Some of us are trying to make it happen. And we're having a lot of fun getting to know our Facebook Friends in the process.