If you’re not on Twitter, you’re not the kind of historian I want to be

Such an obviously provocative title requires some qualification. Those who are not ‘switched on’ to twitter would perhaps be more appropriate, though less succinct. So who do I mean? Well, probably not you, as this blog is largely circulated on twitter (preach-choir circuit complete). I mean anyone who has never thought about opening an account, never tentatively opened one and then closed it, never lived vicariously through a departmental or institutional one or played on a friends. Worse, I mean those who look down upon or resist conference #tags, session tweeting and the self-promotion of ones work that all contribute to making Twitter such an interesting, ever changing and useful tool. As a good HPSer however, I don’t think tools are just sat there waiting to be used for good or bad. They change the landscape, and twitter certainly has (knocks loudly on open door).

I’ve just got back from the Three Societies HPS conference in Philadelphia, summaries of which you can already read herehere and here. I might add my own soon, you lucky shits. For now I want to urge as many people as possible to join Twitter.

Age is no excuse- some of the most interesting people on Twitter are nearly dead.

Unfamiliarity with the technology is no excuse – anyone who can master the CC function on email has already grasped the basics (though I admit learning the etiquette can take a little practice).

Lack of time is no excuse – TWITTER REQUIRES NO INPUT FROM YOU! I can’t stress this enough. You decide WHO to follow. You decide WHEN to read or write tweets. Twitter has actually often helped me make BETTER use of time that would otherwise have been lost waiting for trains or friends (similarly, if you want to just sit there dribbling and looking into the distance, Twitter does not rob you of the opportunity!).

The fact of the matter is that once you have an account, and you have some people to follow, sooner or later you will find something you want to share with them. You might write one tweet a month, or a year. But there will always be a pool of people sat there writing interesting things, linking to other interesting things and available to provide you information in a more convenient way than list communities (I can’t be the only one who just deletes the majority of those things instantly upon arrival) or more static internet spaces such as crappy little blogs like mine.

At the Three Societies meeting ( #3soc ) there was a disappointingly small number of people tweeting. I had hoped that by following the hash tag, I’d gather a whole new group of people to follow. As it was, I picked up one or two newbies, but that was it. There is no reason for this other than laziness or snobbishness. That is what I mean when I say you’re not the kind of historian I want to be. Granted, I am only a postgraduate, so things like Twitter are more important to me than most (I have only a limited number of ways to express myself as an academic). However, if you think Twitter isn’t for you, it almost certainly is. If you try it and don’t like it, that’s fine. After all, some people have tried heroin and decided not to go back for more. If on the other hand you have simply never got round to it, I urge you to take the opportunity to do so now (Twitter, not heroin). If in the year 2000 someone had said to you “pssst! You! Listen. If you go to this website and type in some details, you can share in the thoughts of all the people you are most interested in, and even contribute to their conversations!” what kind of twat would have said no? To illustrate my point, here is a still from the hilariously censored Die Hard 3 they showed on my plane back from America. Mr Willis, and the people who created this ridiculous bit of censorship, both represent the kind of person I have been writing about. (Those familiar with this movie will know that by changing the words on this board from ‘niggers’ to ‘everybody’, they have served to make this one of the most racist scenes in cinematic history).

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8 thoughts on “If you’re not on Twitter, you’re not the kind of historian I want to be

  1. Come on now, some of us are FB addicts where we have the option to say more or less 🙂 Gets hard to train your brain to be kind of ADHD with short spurts of minimal info. As a research I always crave MORE MORE 🙂 Twitter can betoo much too fast.. just saying

    • Of course! But all the conversations had on FB can ONLY be accessed by people with a FB account. I use Twitter to write spurts, have conversations, and publicize blog posts (which can be as long or as short as you like). I don’t want to start a silly FB Twitter war, just want to undermine what you’ve said and move on.

  2. From this post your version of being a historian roughly translates to ‘being a bit of a dick’ so maybe we are better off with our own counsels.

  3. As opposed to choice quotations from your writing such as ‘ those who look down upon or resist conference #tags’ as if there were *no* good reasons to question their value, ‘There is no reason for this other than laziness or snobbishness.’, again implying that anyone who isn’t into twitter has that position for no good reason, and finally ‘what kind of twat would have said no?’. Do I need to go on?

    • Or maybe, just maybe, I’m a reasonable rational person, well aware of the current array of opinions, and firmly taking my stand in one area, inviting others to join me or take the opportunity to explain their own opposing views. Precisely as you haven’t done.

  4. I guess what I am saying in a roundabout way is that there are perfectly reasonable objections to twitter (which, incidentally I don’t agree with – I think it is fantastic. All you do in this blog post is abuse the people who don’t use it, instead of engaging in a constructive way with real objections or concerns. The objections that you do pick out are just straw men that don’t relate to the major concerns at all. So, you are really hurting the cause by, as I said, being a bit of a dick.

    • Ah, I didn’t realise I was part of a cause. I shall alter my behaviour accordingly. Forgive me if I don’t reply again, only my friends get to call me a dick twice in one day, often with my encouragement. Also, I am now going to watch Space Cowboys (not a great film, I know, but Tommy Lee Jones is great in everything).

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