As a kid I was always told not to share my personal information on the Internet (name, age, address, et cetera) when talking with someone via this relatively new form of technology. The person on the other side of the screen may not be who we think he/she is (i.e. a middle aged man posing as a 14-year-old). With the advent of social media, it seems that this advice has went along the wayside…at least in the case of personal information (seriously, some people like to share everything online, don’t they?). Still, that advice rings true in the world of digital humanities. Anyone can buy a website for little to nothing at all (*cough cough*) and say whatever they want. One perfect example of this is the blog, “The Last American Pirate.” This blog was actually created by a college class pretending to be “Jane,” a student working on her senior thesis. “Jane” described her investigation into Edward Owens, supposedly the last American pirate. However, once one finished reading the blog posts, it was announced that the entire blog was FAKE. Yes, this class took the time (for a project) to falsify the life of a Virginian. To reiterate this point, my professor had us make our own online museum exhibit. I chose to make an exhibit on Captain America (titled “Captain America Etc“). While I did strive to be as accurate as possible, I do not work for Marvel and I am not Stan Lee, therefore, I am not an expert. However, for exactly zero dollars, I was able to pretend to be an expert on all things Captain America. Pair that with the fact that many people (including me) tend to believe what they read on the Internet, it can be dangerous. Confession time: I believed the Last American Pirate. Yesterday, my roommate and I were out shopping and we wondered when a movie came out. With a quick Google search on my phone I got my answer in the first search result. That answer could have been wrong but I whole heartedly accepted that the movie came out when the website told me it did. My Captain America exhibit and my Google search may have been innocent and not exactly important, it can have pretty big consequences. This tendency to believe the Internet can majorly affect one’s perspective of history. According to Leslie Madsen-Brooks, the reason for the belief in the over exaggerated number of African Americans who fought for the Confederacy is false information that can readily be attained via the Internet. Therefore, as historians, we must strive to be fully accurate with the information that we present to the public, as well as wary of online sources. I’m not saying don’t use digital sources, just do your homework and make sure what you’re reading is real.
Note: the title of this post is from the musical, “Phantom of the Opera.” Here is the citation:
“Weber, Andrew Lloyd and Hart, Charles. “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It.” Lyrics. Phantom of the Opera. 1988.”