A reference to my article “Twitter the Historical Profession” is circulating on Twitter today. I completely forgot that I wrote this piece back in 2017 for The American Historian, the magazine of the Organization of American Historians. It seems so old now. Kevin Kruse had 73,600 Twitter followers when I wrote this. He now has 491,000 followers. Joanne Freeman had 20,100 followers when I wrote this. She now has 99,300. Heather Cox Richardson had 9,250 followers when I wrote this. She now has 276,,500. Time seems to move much more quickly on Twitter. In the Twitter world, 2017 is ancient history.
Here is a taste of the piece:
Not all academic historians will be interested in Twitter and other social media platforms, but for those of us who want to reach a non-academic audience with our work, it is indispensable. I have come to view my efforts on Twitter (and my blogging) as a form of public history. Historians who use Twitter as part of their professional profile often see themselves as online curators. Many general Twitter users “follow” historians with academic credentials because they view us as professionals—people who they can trust. Twitter offers historians opportunities to challenge our followers to think historically about the world by sharing links to reputable websites, introducing and interpreting primary sources, suggesting pertinent books, and retweeting and commenting on news articles. Sometimes historians will unleash a series of consecutive history-related tweets in response to a current event. Many of these so-called “threads” are shared widely and offer a glimpse, albeit a limited one, of a historical mind in action.
Every historian who practices their craft on Twitter will be quick to say that a social media platform is no replacement for the kind of long-form writing that allows us to make nuanced arguments about the past. Traditional historians who doubt the usefulness of social media have nothing to fear. The practice of history is not going to be reduced to 280-word sound bites anytime in the future. But Twitter has been a boon to historians who want to build their professional profile, connect with like-minded scholars, and bring responsible history to the Internet. In this sense, it is one of many tools in the historian’s toolbox.
Read the rest here.