#twitterstorians: academia and social media.

Sometimes it can be difficult to imagine the worlds of social media and academia colliding, but that’s no longer the case. Of course, Twitter can be a source for constant tedious updates about the weather or someone’s bus journey, courtesy of that school friend you have not spoken to in years. However, Twitter is as good or as bad as you make it. For historians, you can create a Twitter feed that can be a valuable resource for networking, research, and finding a job. Historians seem to be latecomers to this social media party, but the presence of academics on Twitter is certainly growing.[1] Around 1 in 40 scholars have a Twitter account, and it seems this number will only rise.[2] With around 288 million users, Twitter has quickly established itself as a frontrunner in the social media world. [3] So, how can historians benefit from using Twitter?

Twitter has, to some extent, democratized academia. Undergraduates can tweet Professors, and the social aspect of this social media website, opens up new conversations that may not happen without Twitter. The #hashtag makes finding other historians on Twitter simple. Just search for hashtags such as #twitterstorians, or #earlymodernhistory, and join the discussions. Conversations that would usually be limited to long emails, or conferences, can now happen at the click of a button. The hashtag function can also help in that tiring search for a new job. Searching both ‘#twitterstorians’, and ‘#jobs’, brings up a long lists of employment opportunities including permanent lectureships and oral history curators. Hashtags, as well as other accounts, can provide a historian with information they may not have otherwise found. New archive openings, or new sources in your field. Ultimately, if you know where to look, Twitter can be a goldmine for historians; whether it’s finding other academic work, or new archives, or even just an interesting blogpost. Twitter makes those discoveries easier, and at your fingertips.

Following organizations such as The British Library or The National Archives on Twitter provides up-to-date information that could be invaluable when planning a research trip. A quick visit to the National Archives Twitter page and their ‘reply’ section shows that Twitter can be a quick and easy way of getting your questions answered. With frequent updates, it can offer you information on new exhibitions, opening hours, and advice. For any research trips, Twitter can be a helpful resource for historians.

Although Twitter limits posts to 180 characters, this should not discourage historians from participating. Twitter is certainly not the best tool to publish an article, or a dissertation. However, it’s the perfect way to send your followers links to your work. Whether it’s a blog post or the link to an article, when utilised, Twitter can be a free advertising platform to encourage more people to visit your website, or read your work. Arguably, the biggest disadvantage of Twitter is the 180-character rule. However, with the ability to include short hyperlinks into a Tweet, this should not dissuade academics from signing up.

Twitter will not replace the typical forums of discussions for historians. Twitter will not usurp conferences, archives, or the lecture hall. 180 characters will not shake the world of academics, but it can change how academics interact with each other. It can provide new audiences for a historian’s work, and it can offer a quick and easy way to play an active role in the community. Inherently, Twitter is a social media website. However, if you use it to your advantage it can be a useful resource for involving yourself in the historical community.

[1] ‘Twitter Among Scholars’, Figshare, http://figshare.com/articles/Prevalence_and_use_of_Twitter_among_scholars/104629; consulted 22 April 2015

[2] Ibid

[3] ‘About’, Twitter, https://about.twitter.com/company; consulted 22 April 2015

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#twitterstorians: academia and social media.

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