No, There Is Not a Disruption in Time and Space — Vintage Facebook Profiles Are History Lessons
In a sign that academia clearly recognizes its target audience, one woman had the brilliant idea to incorporate history into one of the most omnipresent elements of the lives of college students: social networking. Namely, Facebook. With permission, Donnelyn Curtis, the director of research collections at the University of Nevada at Reno, created two profiles on the site for a young couple from the early 20th century. Are they posting about how awesome their 3:00 Pop Tarts were? No, but they are discussing how much they like Edgar Allen Poe and Scott Joplin. (And yes, they are “in a relationship.”)
Listed as being students of the university in 1915, Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis are actually someone’s grandparents, and it’s their granddaughter who gave Curtis permission to set up the profiles to paint a picture of what everyday life was like for them just under 100 years ago. And it’s not just typical student activities like sports (Joe was a boxer and liked rugby football) and listening to ragtime. Leola’s profile pictures include a photo from the women’s suffrage movement and Joe worked for a mining company. Leola discusses trying to “look like a teacher” in one of her pictures. Status updates, all written by Curtis, include concerns about smallpox and sharing music videos (from 1912). And while it was undeniably a different time in 1915, going through the posts, Leola and Joe seem to just be going through the everyday motions of their lives — posting concerns about travel, the winter weather, missing each other, sharing videos they saw, music they heard. It shows that while times have changed, people (on the most basic level) haven’t really changed all that much. They just didn’t document every moment of their lives like we do now. But, come on — if Leola and Joe had gone to a local pub near campus and had access to a camera that could develop and post pictures at a moment’s notice, we’d totally be looking at drunk pictures of them on Facebook. It’s a case of “A lot of the things we think are crazy today were going on yesterday — there just wasn’t as much available evidence.”
Because of the success of the profiles — Joe has over 300 friends, Leola has nearly 300 — Curtis might start another one for a friend of the couple who left the university to work in a mine. She might also as more of the university’s alumni to create “past-profiles” of themselves as they lived in the 1950s and 1960s. Think of it — the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Kennedy, the Beatles coming to America, the first episode of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, the moon landing …
The objective was to bring history alive, and what better way to do that than to show people that, even 100 years ago, we didn’t think about such different things?