By Dan Pool, Editor
A caller to our office recently, made the statement, “the first thing EVERYONE does is get up and look at Facebook.”
While Facebook may seem all-consuming, that statement is ridiculously far from true. In fact, according to the Pew Research group earlier this year, 69 percent of Americans had a Facebook account. The survey results, available online, noted that number was barely up from the 68 percent in 2018 and the percent of Facebook accounts hadn’t increased any noticeable amount since 2016. Bear in mind, this 69 percent includes both the serious, several-times-a-day user and the guy who hasn’t checked his account in weeks.
The ability to post whatever you want, from political rants to goofy pet photos, all for free is clearly part of modern culture and I’ll not be the old curmudgeon print editor who argues otherwise.
There is one place, though, I am consistently amazed people don’t use traditional print newspapers more often and that is with the really important, substantial events of lives — the births and weddings. We still get plenty of obituaries, but the tradition of putting birth and wedding announcements in the paper has all but vanished.
A journalism professor of mine at the University of Georgia would mention that most people make the paper three times: When you are born, when you get married and when you die.
Now many people will make the paper only once, when they die, if at all, as some families don’t publish obituaries.
I understand that Facebook offers a great spot to put up 47 baby photos welcoming a new child and you have the immediate gratification of watching the “likes” roll in.
Where many people are missing the boat is with the permanent record of something printed in a weekly newspaper. Newspapers have for well over a century maintained a public record that later generations can rely on as a trusted, accurate source of the people in a community. When was this person born? Who was listed as the grandparents? Did the wedding announcement from 50 years ago list the groom’s job? Or what about the names of the bridesmaids?
I realize that Facebook as a whole is not going anywhere, but what guarantee that your account and all your posts and photos are there to stay for the next 100 years? With hacked accounts and privacy issues are you sure the post about your child’s birth will be permanently there? I guarantee you once we print a newspaper with a birth announcement or wedding photo, it’s there to stay. There are archives of every newspaper at several locations including at our office, the library, state archives, online archives. And there are plenty of old copies folded up inside family Bibles or scrapbooks. Newspaper clippings someone from years ago wanted saved fill many drawers in grandparents’ houses.
I wonder if later generations will bemoan this time period as the black hole of public records when personal milestones were no longer saved. “We don’t really don’t know the grandparents of your grandmother because they didn’t get tagged in the Facebook post.”
The birth and wedding announcements on our People page (3B) are free. I encourage you to take advantage of them. One day someone may be grateful you kept a permanent record.