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Did Twittering Begin in the 1700s?

Did Twittering Begin in the 1700s?Maybe a new method to record and share life events in a concise format is not so new after all?

In reviewing volumes of 18th- and 19th-century diaries, Cornell University communication professor Lee Humphreys found many terse records about daily life – and many in a style similar to Twitter.

Diary entries ranged from dinner menus to reports of deaths, births, marriages and travel.

One example: “April 7. Mr. Fiske Buried. April 27. Made Mead. At the assembly,”– From the 1770 diary of Mary Vial Holyoke of Salem, Mass.

Diarists of that era wrote under the constraints of small notebooks that allotted only a few lines per date entry. Their work was intended to be semi-public and shared with others.

“We tend to think of new media as entirely new and different,” says Humphreys, who has studied social media for five years. “But often we see people using new media for old problems.”

In researching Twitter messages for 18 months, Humphreys has been coding tweets, with the help of undergraduate research assistants, by content in such areas as work, health, home and religion. She plans to continue work on the project and will analyze the results over the summer.

Humphreys said she supports the plan of the Library of Congress to archive all public tweets tweeted since March 2006.

“Tweets capture a moment in history in a really interesting way.”

Humphreys cautions that, as with centuries-old diaries, there is a limit to what we can learn from 21st-century tweets.

“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 says.

“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.”

Source: Cornell University

Did Twittering Begin in the 1700s?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Did Twittering Begin in the 1700s?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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