What do history and twitter have to do with each other?
Last week I ended my post by talking about how teachers can use new media to push back against a culture of testing and standardization. One tool that teachers and other sharers-of-history use to connect and share resources is twitter. Want to find out what people are thinking about and working on, right now, in history? Twitter is probably your best bet.
Here are some ways historians take advantage of twitter:
- It’s highly searchable
One way historians can make the most of this platform is searching out hashtags that different communities use. With 335 million active users, it’s possible to find like-minded scholars in even the most niche areas. #twitterstorians gets you to the history community on twitter, and you can find a community of scholars doing work in any number of areas, like #AmRev, #HistSex, or #EnvHist, to list a few.
Bonus tip: organize your favorite follows into Twitter Moments.
- It’s hypertextual (meaning you can link stuff like this)
Twitter’s 280 character limit is a great way for historians to keep things concise and to-the-point, but for those of us who have a little bit more to say (hello, we’re storytellers!) it’s also a great way to share blog posts, articles, books we’ve been loving to keep the conversation going.
- It keeps you up to date on the latest Digital Humanities projects.
What are Digital Humanities? Who even knows, but DH folks do some cool projects, and usually know how to keep their followers interested and involved through twitter.
@DHNow is a good starting point, showcasing some of the best digital humanities scholarship.
- You can keep up to date with institutions around the world.
Aside from personal pages for individuals in the (public) history world, most cultural and academic institutions keep twitter pages, as well. Some pages are more up to date than others, and while some institutions use social media mainly to promote events and exhibitions, others keep up lively character pages that engage with followers, like @SuetheTRex of the Field Museum and @FrancesWillard of the Frances Willard House.
- It’s highly searchable
Despite twitter’s many wonderful qualities, it has its fair share of drawbacks, too:
- It’s a rabbit hole.
“I’ll just check twitter really quickly while I’m brushing my teeth.” Two hours later, you’ve read an article on the dying dim sum scene in Hong Kong, checked on the person who sat in front of you in 9th grade math class, and gotten into a fight in a comment section with someone you don’t know. The best intentions fly out the window when all of these shiny, distracting things pop up. (Or…so I hear.)
- “Wait, that’s not what I meant!”
Even though twitter raised the limit from 140 to 280 characters, it’s still difficult to express nuanced thoughts in such a concise space. On top of that, there’s no way to edit a post, so typos live on forever.
- Privacy concerns
Twitter isn’t as fun once you get into controversial territory. Having your name and work tied to a public page can be scary if something you say goes viral, or if a vocal opposing crowd disagrees. Even for non-controversial projects, it can be hard to find the line between sharing and over-sharing.
Overall, twitter can be a fantastic resource once you find a community–as long as you set a time limit and steer clear of inflammatory comments!