Social media might one day offer a dazzling, and even overwhelming, array of source material for historians. Such an abundance presents a logistical challenge (the total number of tweets ever written is nearing half a trillion) as well as an ethical one (will people get to opt out of having ephemeral thoughts entered into the historical record?). But this plethora of new media and materials may function as a totally new type of archive: a multidimensional ledger of events that academics, scholars, researchers and the general public can parse to generate a more prismatic recollection of history. [...]
The internet is pushing us—in good ways and in bad—to realize that the official version of events shouldn’t always be trusted or accepted without question. And historians are constantly updating the record by looking for primary sources that were overlooked in earlier eras, often from marginalized figures. These days, such omissions will still happen, but we can catch them faster. Oversights that would have taken decades to correct are now resolved in weeks, even hours. We now get a kaleidoscopic view of events as they unfold, often in real time, on our screens and devices. History is not neutral or synonymous with truth, but the internet affords us a newfound vantage on the totality of passing time—the profound implications of which we are just now beginning to grasp.