Twitter just a 300-year old diary

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The Independent Online

According to a professor and researcher at Cornell University, tweets are very similar to diaries from the 1700s and 1800s - a social connection that records life's moments and helps people cathartically deal with life's issues.

It was common for diary entries 300 years ago to be short and random ranging from menus to announcements of travel, deaths and other life events.

Lee Humphreys, PhD, an assistant professor in communications at Cornell University and researcher in social media, led the study and said, "We tend to think of new media as entirely new and different, but often we see people using new media for old problems."

During the 18th and 19th centuries, diaries created constraints similar to those of Twitter with small spaces and very few lines attributed to each date. Here is a sample Humphreys shared:

"April 7. Mr. Fiske Buried. April 27. Made Mead. At the assembly," - from Mary Vial Holyoke of Salem, Massachusetts diary (1770).

Also diaries were meant to be "semi-public and shared with others."

The US Library of Congress intends to archive all public tweets tweeted since March 2006. And, Humphreys supports this, explaining, "Tweets capture a moment in history in a really interesting way."

 "We know Twitter tends to be used by urban, younger populations, so it's not representing everybody, and no culture can be reduced to the texts that it produces," she continued. "So as great as it is to have these diaries and these tweets, we recognize them as incomplete representations of society. It's easy to see that with the diaries, but it's just as important to see that with Twitter."

Remember when you tweet, it is a public snapshot in time that might be reflected on in the future.