Historians and Social Media

Students and alumni contemplating an academic career might want to read this extensive reflection from Yale PhD candidate Michael Hattern, discussing several ways in which social media might be used by historians and would-be historians (and why such tools should be approached cautiously). (H/T John Fea)

A few key observations:

1. Networking: social media can connect younger historians with senior scholars, and help form online communities among younger peers who can share experiences and advice.

2. Acculturation: here blogs might play a particularly important role, especially if you’re a Bethel student or recent alum trying to decide if grad school is for you.

A number of my fellow young historians whom I queried in preparing this article said they likely would not have applied to graduate school had it not been for these blogs. [Hattern mentions specifically historical blogs like Religion in American History and more generally scholarly blogs like ProfHacker, the blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education.] Many felt that reading blogs by academic historians helped them “get a feel for what academic life was like” and gave them “a better sense of what [they were] getting into.” From these blogs they derive a sort of “intellectual sustenance” and “important exposure to new ideas,” while also giving them a “window into what the profession is like.”

3. Spreading and sharing knowledge: earlier Hattern mentioned the phenomenon of sharing research findings (often from the archives themselves); he also points to blogs as places where young scholars can share book reviews and perhaps (least likely) to attract attention from publishers.

4. Be careful: the chief downside Hattern identified had to do with social media becoming part of job searches. Careless posts on Facebook or Twitter might come back to haunt your candidacy for a job later on.

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