Facebook Project Update, and the impermanence of digital ephemera.
An article over at HNN considers the Historians and Facebook issue and mentions the Facebook groups that I created in October of 2007. These groups have seen relatively steady trickles of growth; the AHA and OAH groups have grown the fastest, but the smaller ones (H-Net Editors) have also seen a few people here and there. The HNN article has provoked a few new requests this weekend, such that the figures mentioned by Dr. Lemisch are already out of date.
His point, that Facebook could become a place of roiling debate, is contested by the first commenter on the article. This gentleman believes that history blogs will serve the purpose far better than the generically branded Facebook site, and I tend to think that he’s right. The rush to Facebook is really a rush to “what the kids are doing.” But even though the kids are alright, they never do the same thing for long, and it is my impression that for the rising matriculants, Facebook is already over, if not something that never even existed in their digital lives. So use Facebook if you like, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ve found an online home. The most annoying thing about the internet is that there really isn’t such a thing as an online home so long as you are a “renter” (i.e. you use someone’s service to post/host your material. Even more than the real world, permanence only comes through “ownership.” Many have suggested that we should “meet the students where they are,” but I’ve started to come around to the idea that we should “expose the the students to where we are.” That means creating our own online communities on our own terms, useful in ways that we desire, and forgetting about super-poke and the like. Our world is moving online, but that doesn’t mean that 35, 45, or 55 year olds have to live it like 15 year olds.