A slambook looks innocent enough: a simple notebook with a series of questions (What is your favourite colour? Who is your favourite actor? What is your favourite subject?), passed around by the owner to his/her classmates for them to fill out. Many a rainy lunch hour in my American sixth grade* class was spent poring over slambooks, reading others’ entries and comparing your own. There were less innocent Q&As, too (Who do you hate at school? Who is the ugliest in our class?), which made for more interesting reading, even if doing so did prick your conscience.
Slambooks were good for another thing, and that was spreading rumours about someone you didn’t like. The slambook was the paper-and-pen precursor to Facebook and in my view, also shares something in common with the more grown-up Twitter. That is to say, neither is a particularly reliable source for the truth with a capital “T”, but their allure is powerful to those seeking information or bite-sized entertainment.
Take super-injunctions. The official headlines have made for good tube reading, but as we all know, the real action was to be found in the Twittersphere. For within Twitter was “the truth” in all its surgically abbreviated, gasp-inducing glory, inviting discussion on- and offline, thus recycling the proclamations thousands of times over.
PRs say if you repeat messages frequently enough, the messages will sink in – and therein lies the danger and the opportunity of Twitter as a part of any PR campaign. Veracity is the more important issue, because as fun as social media is, it often makes us work at twice as hard to find “the Truth”.
*11-12 year olds