Is it okay to use ‘fake’ Facebook profiles as a history lesson?

We recently came across this article on University of Nevada librarian Donnelyn Curtis, who created two fictitious Facebook profiles to help local history become “a little more relevant” for students.

Curtis manages the profiles of Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis (former University students who married in 1915), for whom she posts status updates, photographs and wall comments – all attempting to be historically accurate.

According to the article, Curtis gleaned her information from the University’s research collection, as well as writings by McDonald and Lewis. Using this information (and apparently with the blessings of the couple’s families), she posts things about their interests and their activities – all reflecting the time period in which they lived.

Now, putting aside the question of whether this violates Facebook’s terms of service on creating such accounts – which it most likely does – we applaud Curtis’ well-intentioned, transparent effort to make history more meaningful to the social media generation.

It seems to us that Facebook should consider creating loopholes for such occurrences – perhaps even creating a separate category of profile, clearly labeled with a title such as ‘educational history’ – so that users know exactly what they are perusing.

Not everyone enjoys – or makes time – to delve headfirst into the library archives to learn about the past.  But using social media in such a manner may help to light that fire of genealogical interest in those who would otherwise let the past slip away.

1/11/12 UPDATE: Just in the past day, it appears the Facebook profiles of both McDonald and Lewis have been taken down. Sorry for the links, which appear to be dead. Just in case Facebook puts them back up, we’ll leave them in the article.

We’d love to hear your comments on this topic.