I first joined Twitter in late 2008 — 6 December 2008 to be specific — mostly as an exercise to take the piss out of social media and try to come up with pithy comments on nothing. My first tweet, shown below, was as dull as dull can be in all its Gen-X diffident attitude-ness:
Over the first few months of 2009, I used Twitter mostly as what Warren Ellis calls “a drainage gully for mental slurry” — a place to dump whatever stupid thoughts came to me, rant about teaching or the academy, and shoot the shit with a few meatspace friends who also used the service (say hello to Dean Stahl, Brian P. Hudson, and Barry Cook, y’all).
It was only in the late spring/early summer that I began to understand Twitter’s greater potential, particularly when it came to my profession as a historian. Up to then, I had followed a few historians and other academics here and there that I had stumbled across, but with no great urgency to find more (most of my following list at the time was made up of comic book people and other nerd escapades, with a little politics tossed in for good measure). Following people like Dan Cohen (of George Mason University,) Brad King (now of Ball State University), sociologist Liz Pullen (the doyen of Twitter trends), and Holly Tucker of Vanderbilt University began to open me up to the less flippant uses of Twitter — information exchange, real-time feedback, global networking, and the like. But the floodgates didn’t really burst open until Katrina Gulliver came along.
I must have started following her in May 2009. I’m assuming this because the following is the earliest Tweet I can find of me pinging her:
Over the rest of that summer, further historians and other academic people on Twitter began to filter across my radar, mostly because of my interactions with Katrina and the Waves above. But then one year ago, Katrina put out her call on Twitter for all the historians to come out of the woodwork. And boy did they ever. Now it is almost a chore to keep track of all the Twitterstorians (as Katrina labeled us all). Holly Tucker and Norma Hall have Twitter Lists of historians that number nearly 500 people, accounts, and institutions, while the Twitterstorian list Katrina started has grown through several updates since then.
In the last year, my use of Twitter has changed significantly. While it still serves as a mental dumping ground of sorts for me, it has also become a nexus for collaboration and networking in my field; a central hub for spreading and obtaining new ideas about teaching, research, or whatever; a further avenue for personal and professional promotion (and emotional support) on the academic job market (aka Dante’s Inferno); and quite simply an all-around good time eclectic flow of information, individuals, and ideas: dynamic, ever changing, asynchronous. If I am speaking honestly, it was around the Twitterstorian call that my Twitter world changed…for the better.
Happy anniversary, Twitterstorians. Keep on keeping on…