Is social networking the future of historical source analysis? (Catchy title!)

I don’t know what you think of Twitter. My opinion has turned 180 degrees in the last year. To me,it was pointless,then curiousity crept in and eventually I became a full-blown tweeter and follower of both tweeting friends and famous people.

Twitter has made big news this week. The not-very-unnamed footballer is fighting the power of social networking in an attempt to prevent damaging information about their private life being released. Realistically they’ve already lost. Now they’re fighting the woman in question,the Sun newspaper and the many,many users of Twitter.

Should they accept that their actions have consequences? Maybe. Should we accept that someone’s celebrity status doesnt make every detail of their lives public property? Probably. Shouldn’t we all admit that there are/were parts of our lives we wouldn’t want everyone to know about? Definitely.

Imagine if some of our historical figures tried to obtain superinjunctions? Would Henry VIII have kept more of his relationships under wraps? Would we have known about the hot-headed nature of William Harvey? In a funny way,Stalin had a superinjunction- preventing the details of Lenin’s testament from being published!

And what of Twitter? What will people of the future think of our stars of today and their tweets? What if those in History had tweeted? Would we know more of their personal lives? Would it have made a difference to their legacy? Would people have cared,or were times different back then?

Why this line of thought? Well I’ve been creating Facebook,or rather ‘fakebook’ profiles for historical characters thanks to http://www.classtools.net- I think its a clever way of learning key content and getting a sense of empathy.

But will Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds become the historical sources of the future?! How will our study of an individual and their importance/significance change as a result? I look forward to being able to answer all these questions one day, because if history is ‘gossip well told’,then the future is bright for the history of the early 21st century.

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