Friday, November 13, 2015

Has Genealogy gone 'Mean'? Rudeness Among Us

Has genealogy gone ‘mean’? I'm beginning to wonder!

In today’s world of Facebook groups, blogs, message boards & comment sections – there are no shortage of opportunities for people to ‘speak their minds’. And lately, I’ve been taken aback by the level of “meanness” that’s been displayed. 
 


Don’t get me wrong, I still consider genealogists to be among the most helpful people out there – but there is no place for rudeness in our world!




In the future, before you post a comment, reply, or ‘vent’ – 
I ask you to consider these 6 questions:
-Is this truly helpful
-Have I fully read/understood what I’m replying to
-Would I appreciate this response if I received it
-Is my ‘vent’ appropriate, on subject or necessary
-Am I sharing vs lecturing
-Would I say this if we were face to face

Genealogy itself is a vague hobby. We all have different techniques, methods, goals and end results. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s a very personalized  hobby. Much of it is personal preference vs right/wrong. All of us have been at for various lengths of time and with varying degrees of activity. And longtime genealogists are very well are of how drastically our hobby has changed in the last 20 years with the advent of the internet.

I encourage you to regularly ask yourselves those 6 questions. If we aren’t being kind or helpful to one another – let’s just pass on sharing that with everyone.

Recently, on a Facebook group I belong to – a gentleman posted about searching for the burial locale of some ancestors. His quest was clear – he stated what he’d already done and what he was hoping to accomplish. Anyone who read his brief post should have had no questions or doubts… but many of the responses were anything but helpful. In his original post he state he was “desperate to find burial information”. One of the first responses was from a lady who shamed & criticized this man, stating “I can’t imagine being desperate to know anything – I’d like to know, but to be desperate…” And BANG! the debate over desperate was off. And completely inappropriate & off topic, besides not at all helpful. Another responder, a self-identified Findagrave rule expert, opened the always contensious subject of Findagrave – again, off subject and not appropriate. It took great restraint for me to not jump into those discussions but that doesn’t help to join an angry mob. Incidentally, I have no idea if the poor man ever found any help with his original post.

Not long ago, I received a shockingly rude email from someone regarding a Findagrave memorial. I couldn't believe the tone and condescending nature. Of course this person did not message me thru F.A.G, but instead emailed me (I have my address listed), with their anonymous no-name email address. I just did not understand the need to be rude.

It’s no surprise to me to see the frequent posts “I’m leaving this group due to rudeness/negativitiy” – and there are countless others I’m sure who stay silent, keeping their great offerings to themselves – or leave quietly without a word to anyone.

Yes. I know. Findagrave is NOT a perfect site. 
Yes. Ancestry is far from perfect.
Is it productive to rant and rave against these resources. No. Probably not.
Some of us are "experts" and some are "novices". 
Is my way better than yours? Yours better than mine?
Discussions are wonderful. Arguments, not so much so.

Personally, I use the resources I like. Ignore the ones I don't. I follow blogs and read articles that I find interesting and pass by those I do not. I rarely comment on contentious posts or subjects. My time is worth more than that. And so should yours!

We live in a world of opinions. And we now have much easier avenues in which to share those opinions. We can still teach, disagree, and even  dislike in a respectful manner!

This is my own form of "ranting & raving". If you've read to the end, know my intentions are pure and my only hope is that it might cause a few people to pause, and be a little kinder.

Remember those 6 questions above. 
Remember we're all in this together.

Be Kind & Keep Digging!!








56 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Marcie! Even if a few people change their tone, it's a success!

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  2. Hello Nick, Thanks very much for this post. I hope it is taken to heart. I've also been the victim of viciousness via email and on my blog. My guess is the meanness expressed by some has to do with frustration in their own lives, rather than genealogy or family history. On my blog I resorted to posting the following: "...in the spirit of true collegiality, I ask you do not write something you would not say to me in person." Most of the time it works, but occasionally someone still puts their mean face on. Wishing you many positive interactions! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Jennifer! I appreciate your feedback and insight. I realize the biggest culprits of "mean" will not see themselves in this, at least as a perpetrator. But if even a few folks alter their tone or approach, it's a big win for "our side"! Incidentally, I swung by your blog & loved the look-- will follow you now, so I can see it regularly! Also hoping many positive exchanges are in your future as well! :)

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  3. Many times people say things "hiding" behind a keyboard they would never say to your face. We've become a society where its okay to say what we want because after all it is all about "our feelings".... right? Thanks for the article, it needed to be said, and you said it perfectly!

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    1. Thank you, Karen! I appreciate very much your feedback & support. I agree, the anonymity & distance the keyboard gives society, has caused some to forget that we are still interacting with actual people! In our world of genealogy, we can do better! Thanks again

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks! I appreciate you stopping by & your support

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  5. Good for you and thank you. I was one of the many that just bow out of an area when I see rudeness within the messages.

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    1. I completely understand the bowing out... I do it as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. Starting with Nicholas, I give "Like"s to everyone for their comments. The Internet is the best thing, while at the same time being the worst thing, that's ever happened to us.

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    1. Thanks Sierra! It's really quite easy to be kind & supportive. Especially in our genealogical world. Ultimately, we all have same mission-- so it's should be easy! Thanks again for stopping by! Cheers

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  7. Thank you so much for writing this. I, too, have seen some meanness exhibited, hoping that I have not come across the same way. My mom used to tell me not to become a "right-fighter". I never knew what it meant.

    I do now.

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    1. Thank you, Peggy. I appreciate you stopping by & your support.
      What a piece of amazing advice! Your Mom was a sharp lady.
      Thanks again~

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  8. Nicholas,
    I so totally agree with you. We've all seen those contenscious posts or comments. I do want to say that some of this could be avoided by better monitoring by group admins on FB. I share admin duties on several groups. It's necessary, unfortunately, to take a hard stance on posts or comments that become argumentative or disrespectful. Then as an admin when you've deleted those posts and possibly the people who posted them, from the group, you get "yelled" at by some members. However, this is a necessary duty to keep the groups as pleasant forums for discussion and sharing. I have personally left several groups that became mud throwing fests and were not well monitored.
    I thank you for this post and I hope many will read and heed your advice. I plan to share this post on my own FB page.
    Well done!

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    1. Thank you for reading & sharing your insight! Much appreciated.
      And I enjoy your point of view as an Admin.... agreeing that while sometimes difficult, it is necessary to stand up to "bullies" and eliminate them altogether when so required.
      There is always going to be "that person"... but instead of fanning flames or joining the mob, we just need to shut that behavior down, staying on point & staying kind. Cheers!

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  9. Please smile with me - the article is excellent and so worth sharing... with that said you may want to consider changing this one sentence above "It is productive to rant and rave against these resources. No. Probably not."

    I truly believe the site should read 'Is it productive to rant and rave against these resources. No. Probably not.'

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    1. Thanks for stopping by!
      And YES, I like your wording better :)

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  10. I agree with you that people can be rude, but want to caution against jumping to conclusions.

    A lot of us aren't native speakers of English and come from different cultures. As a Dutch person, I know I'm more direct than most Americans. I'm fluent in English but sometimes miss nuances, or make mistakes that change the meaning or tone of what I'm trying to say. I'm sure I've been perceived as rude, without intending to be. Let's not assume that every rude comment is meant that way.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by & sharing your insight! It is appreciated.
      I also don't advocate being over "sensitive"in finding rudeness everywhere.
      Miscommunication is inevitable, but we all have the responsibility to own what we are saying (or writing) so that confusion is limited. But for most bullies-- the intent is clear.
      Thanks again for sharing this point with me & other readers-- it is appreciated

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    2. You're welcome. As I hit 'Publish' I realize that my comment might be considered too direct too :-) I guess that proves my point. Glad you're taking it well :-)

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  11. Nicholas,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/11/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-november-13.html

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you, Janna! I appreciate you passing my post on~ Your Friday Fabs are must read for me each week! :)

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  12. In the days before FB, I use to use the Newsgroups for discussion, some of you would remember those. One of them was Computers-Genealogy or Genealogy-Computers, can't remember the exact name but it was no different back then. The rudeness and nastiness would creep out of under the rock and ping some poor sod who was only trying to find information. Heaven forbid if you asked the question in the wrong group! There is one simple rule to remember when replying to someone's post, you don't know what is happening in their life, their day so be kind and gentle and most of all, be helpful even if they are asking in the wrong group.
    [Also posted in Technology for Genealogy on FB]

    Your article is most timely, Nick as there has been quite an influx of newbies on the various genealogy groups across FB, especially since a well-known and well liked genealogist suggested re-doing our trees :o). Many of these ppl are very green at internet usage and need some help and guidance. Keep it fun everyone. Thx Nick.

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    1. Thanks so much, Wendy!
      We can teach, share, correct and even disagree all while remaining well mannered. I too, remember the early days of internet genealogy-- and the Roots mailing lists I belonged to... people would get rough there too, but nothing like I've seen recently.
      I thought it was time for a reset--- which is why I wrote this. Thanks again and stop back anytime! :)

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  13. Thank you! Well said and greatly needed. I feel the same way thanks for expressing it!

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    1. Thanks, Helen! I appreciate you stopping by & sharing your words of support.
      Come back anytime~

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  14. This issue is not only in genealogy - RV travel bloggers I was following just quit posting due to the number of "haters" that they were encountering. Find this aspect of the InterNET very sad.

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    1. Sad, but true. We all just have to do our little part to be kind... and hope that a few others will reciprocate. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Hi Nicholas,

    I couldn't agree more. We all need help at some point and none of us knows everything. Although mainly (in my opinion) a solitary pursuit, genealogy requires cooperation and sharing. Sharing of information, knowledge, and techniques. We should all strive to be cooperative and supportive of each other. Thank you for posting this.

    David

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    1. Thanks for sharing, David! It's so easy to be kind to each other-- I'll never understand the "I'm Right Police", because we all have many opportunities to learn from one another. And even if we have different ideas, we can still be respectful about it! Cheers~

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  16. Thank you Nicholas, you have expressed exactly how I feel some days when reading some posts on genealogy groups on Facebook, ... and yes I am afraid to admit that I am one of the readers that stays silent and would prefer not to get involved in rude attacks on others. The sad thing is that the original poster who is just seeking some help finding a missing piece of their genealogy puzzle, is often left with no answer, just a lot of aggravation, and who knows if they are a newbie, they may never ask for assistance again.

    Thanks again !

    Geoff

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    1. Thanks, Geoff. I appreciate you stopping by & your support. I'm glad so many others feel as I do, maybe a few people will change their tone... even the smallest number is a win for our side! Cheers~

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  17. Nicholas, THANK YOU for writing this....you chose the right words in the nicest spirit !

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    1. Thank YOU! I was a bit apprehensive that that "means" would band together and come after me-- but I guess they can't cooperate with even each other. I was a little surprised at the overwhelming positive reaction I've received. But very pleased. Thanks again!

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  18. Your post is great food for thought.

    Recently, I shared some thoughts about a fire storm blog post. I worked really hard to express my disagreement and lack of understanding of the posters' perspective. Though I may use passionate language, I often focus on the topics, not the person. This is my guiding principle in a discussion of editorial content.

    With regards to helping someone, the internet has been harsh since the beginning. I remember not knowing a) that you could boil a potato and b) how to boil said potato, nearly 14 years ago. I didn't have a recipe book or a chef available to call, so I used a search engine to ask, "How to boil a potato?" I never came across the instructions on how to boil a potato. Instead, the only thing available was the response, "If you don't know how to boil a potato, you have bigger problems." It was rude and not helpful. And maybe I did have bigger problems, but I wanted to know how to boil the stinking potato!

    People can be rude in person, in print, and online. Passionate disagreements should not necessarily be construed as rude. But when we attack a person for 'being desperate' for an answer to the question, ignore the desperation and answer the question if you can.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by & sharing your insight/story. I appreciate it.
      Some of the best ideas & solutions come for disagreements--- we can agree on nothing and still treat each other with respect. If even a few folks alter their tone--- I consider that a win for 'our' side!

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  19. Very timely Nicholas. Just this week on me Family Tree Maker FaceBook page someone asked if there were an Ancestry dot com FB page. The answer was clear, Yes, but it was a group full of rude people. I made a note of never to join.

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    1. Thank you, Raul~ I appreciate your support. Keep extending kindness when you can, and avoid the "means". Stop back anytime, thanks again!

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  20. So true - I run a website for a single UK County and although the negative comments are few and far between they are very hurtful. Considering the team are all volunteers and that the information we supply is free, people seem to want the moon plus the universe. They do not seem to understand the concept that the information is provided under difficult circumstances such as unhelpful archive offices, no funding, and that all the volunteers have a life of other interests, we do our best. We have a disclaimer that the information we supply should be checked against the original source, but the hard work has been done for them by tracking down these resources in the first place where in many cases people would need to visit the archives themselves or pay a researcher to go look for them. I have used Find A Grave in the past and was not expecting a result at all but it was worth a try - I was amazed how quickly someone visited the site and took the photo for me. Without these volunteer sites and FB pages etc. genealogy would be a far more difficult hobby. Guess the word "You can't please everyone" ring true where any volunteer organisation is involved.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by & sharing your insight, it is appreciated!
      There are so many wonderful folks in our field... all with varying skill sets & things to offer.
      But I no longer can tolerate the abusive ones lurking in the shadows.
      Thanks again, come back anytime!

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  21. I quit a couple groups just for this reason. I don't want needless meanness. I want to be happy, and be around happy people.

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    1. Couldn't agree more, Bruce. Thanks for stopping by!

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  22. A welcome piece of sanity in a crazy world gone mad

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    1. Thank you! Appreciate the support and am very pleased with the overwhelming positive reaction I've received

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  23. I have a few genealogically oriented FB pages. I clearly state in each that they are designed to be friendly communities of helpful people helping other helpful people. I also state that we're firm about a zero-tolerance policy. We've had a few members "moved on," especially in the Find-A-Grave page. As a result, we have grown to over 6,000 members, many of whom have gone so far as to state that they appreciate to culture we've developed.

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    1. I'm thrilled to hear you have a zero tolerance policy! That's really the only way to go. I wish more groups & individuals would have the confidence to 'shut down' the abusers right away. Eventually they have no place to go, or they learn to bite their tongues (or fingers).
      Thanks for stopping by & sharing~

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  24. Unfortunately, genealogists are as capable of rudeness as any other group. Way back in the early days when Prodigy was just about the sum total of the internet, people were occasionally rude. However, in our hobby rudeness is especially damaging since we depend so much on the cooperation of other researchers. The person you insult today, may be the person you have to ask for help from tomorrow! Think long and hard before you burn any bridges - this is based on 40 years of experience playing this little game of ours.

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    1. Thank you for visiting & sharing--- I SO agree, that rudeness is especially damaging in our community. We all have varying degrees of knowledge in a hugely vast variety of areas. If only people were more gentle & open minded-- there is very little right vs wrong in our hobby. 98% is just personal choice.
      Thanks again!

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  25. Sadly, the "mean" folks are everywhere on the Net these days. I suspect the anonymity of the internet makes them feel free to say anything they like without fear of repercussions. And some of them seem to exist solely to visit every website they can and spread their venom.

    Is there a cure? I fear we can only heal ourselves and hope the others will follow suit, but most of them don't perceive a problem that needs fixing. Still, if your gentle reminder wakes up even half a dozen people, the internet will be the better for it.

    Thanks for "venting" on this issue!

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    1. Thank you, Kay! That's what I've been saying-- if even a few folks change their tone, it's a win for "our side". We need to lead by example and firmly, yet kindly, stop rudeness in its tracks.
      Thanks again-- stop back anytime!

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  26. Thank you so much for this article, Nick! I applaud your call to not only avoid being rude and mean in the first place, but to avoid jumping in on the conversation when someone else has been rude. I agree with other comments here - people say things online that they would never say face to face.

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    1. Thank you so much for your support & for stopping by. The "means" need to be 'shut down'. Even if only a handful of folks change the way they respond-- it's a win for our side! Thanks again, stop back anytime.

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  27. I used to belong to a wonderful, helpful list. That is until it fell apart. After it started being moderated, no one wanted to be bothered with it anymore. Just because a few people had to have their say, in nasty or negative ways. What a pity.

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