Author: Zuniga, Nancy

So...What's the Deal with Facebook?

Over the past few months, quite a few members of the California Bluegrass Association have joined up with the free social networking website Although the CBA Message Board continues to provide a valuable forum for the exchange of information in the bluegrass community, a fairly significant number of CBA members are finding themselves drawn to Facebook. What’s it all about?

First, a little background on Facebook. From Wikipedia: “(Facebook) website membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It later expanded further to include any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The website currently has more than 150 million active users worldwide.” So...What are a bunch of bluegrassers doing on a website that was initially created as a networking device for university students?

I first joined Facebook in November of 2007, and my introduction to the website had nothing to do with bluegrass; I had been invited to join by one of my friends from, a website for folks who, like myself, have a slightly unhealthy obsession with their feline companions. Months went by, and with the exception of a handful of relatives, my list of Facebook “friends” consisted almost entirely of fellow CCLs (Crazy Cat Ladies). Nonetheless, early on, I had typed in a search on Facebook for “Bluegrass” and found a couple of discussion groups, but didn’t see any familiar names or faces. Then, one day a few months back, I was surprised to receive a “friend request” on Facebook from Darby Brandli! After accepting the request, I was able to access Darby’s Facebook page, where I saw posts and photos from Sondra Baker and Melinda Stanley. I quickly added Sondra and Melinda as friends, and was then able to view their Facebook pages, peruse their lists of Facebook friends in search of familiar names, and send out more requests. Many others apparently have done the same; Things have mushroomed as word of CBAers on Facebook has spread, and more of our members have decided to join in the fun. It seems that new additions from our bluegrass community, ranging from teens to some of our more senior members, are joining up every day.

In addition to personal Facebook pages, any Facebook member can make a group page pertaining to a cause, special interest, event, etc. Group pages have appeared on Facebook for the Fathers Day Festival, Clovis Winter Bluegrass Festival, bands, and gigs. There is even a group page, started by CBA member John Bluemel, entitled “People who are members of the California Bluegrass Association.”

I sent out a message to forty of my new Facebook friends (the majority of whom were already friends in real life through the CBA), and asked them their reasons for joining Facebook. Out of those forty, only nine people responded, which in itself may be telling. Some folks may have joined at the suggestion of a friend or relative but lack either the time or inclination to actively participate. From those who did take the time to reply to my inquiry, the overriding reason for joining seemed to be that Facebook provides a way to keep in touch with one another in a way that is not too intrusive. Rather than taking the time to telephone or email a specific individual, one can view the “feed” on one's Facebook home page that keeps them apprised of recent comments, photos, videos, etc. that may have been added by their friends. It’s up to the individual to decide whether or not to lurk quietly in the background, comment on friends’ activities, initiate discussions, and/or contribute one's own photos, videos, etc. Besides the quick comments that can be posted upon a Facebook member’s “wall”, it’s possible to send messages to up to twenty people in the same thread, which can result in some lively discussions. I used this method to contact the forty CBA members in preparation for writing this column. To my surprise, one of the threads evolved into a thoughtful, in-depth political discussion, something that might be frowned upon on in a strictly bluegrass forum.

Deb Livermore weighed in with the following comments: “We get to know when each other is having a birthday or other celebration”...”I believe that FB has helped us to get to know each other a little better too!!”...“The pics are great, especially when they put up pics from the old days or when there is a new baby and you get to watch them grow”...I could especially relate to Deb's comment about pictures, as one of my favorite aspects of the site is our ability to upload “photo albums” to share with one another. Where else would I have the opportunity to view photos of a teenage Bill Schneiderman playing the banjo in an early ‘60s bluegrass band that included a washtub bass?! (or for that matter, a picture of Bill and his date at their senior prom, circa 1962?)

For some, Facebook is as much about business as pleasure. Bruce Hayden and his wife Cindy find the site useful for their music camp outreach. Rick Cornish and Duane Thompson have both taken advantage of Facebook to connect with professional musicians, and Rick states that he has “already accomplished a fair amount of CBA business using the social networking system.”

In a nutshell, Facebook, like the CBA, is many things to many people. As we share photographs and videos and enter into discussions on a myriad of topics, it gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of one another’s lives with no pressure to “stick to bluegrass content”...although there is plenty of bluegrass content thrown into the mix. Most others, like myself, are enjoying the chance to communicate quickly and easily with both bluegrass and non-bluegrass friends, old classmates, and members of our families, all within one web site.

Of course, involvement in Facebook in no way diminishes the importance of our Pat Calhoun was quick to point out that she does not “want to forget to visit the CBA website each day. Might miss some important CBA info”. And then, there’s pickin’ to be done; As Ron Rose so succinctly put it when commenting on the increasing number of bluegrassers on Facebook: “Shouldn’t we all be out jamming’ somewhere?”
Posted:  2/5/2009

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