Facebook was invented in Ancient Rome?

Posted by: Gergely Sumegi (3 years, 10 months ago)

As many of the modern amenities we use today, it seems social media was invented in ancient Rome too. As explained in a new book, titled Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years, ancient Romans created a social network of some sort by writing graffiti on the wall, where they could post their political messages as well as the juicy details of their private life.

Graffiti was very popular in antiquity. The walls of Pompeii were covered with a vast amount of such text, including advertisements, poets, blithe drawings and political messages. For example, politicians of Pompeii used city walls to keep in touch with their constituents and delivered their messages on this media, hoping to increase their popularity and the number of votes.

Of course, this communication channel did not have to be necessarily one-way: ordinary townsfolk could express their feelings on the walls, shouting their joy or sorrow to the world, creating a social network of a kind.

As Tom Standage, the author of the book explains, the predecessor of today's well-known social networks was created by Romans some two thousand years ago, and today's users are the inheritors of their ancient fellow networkers. If Thomas Paine or Martin Luther lived today, they would use these channels in the same way today to convey their messages – says the writer.

According to his definition, social media is an environment where the exchange of information among certain people happens through society-based connections in order to create a dialogue within the community. This can be said about people of historic times, as – before the appearance of mass media and printed newspapers – exchange of information was made in a "shared" format throughout centuries.

Romans were messaging to each other on the walls of the Forum this way too: they expressed their opinion for example about a guest house via graffiti, or voiced their political commitments, but they also bragged about their sexual conquests on the walls.

But there are samples from later ages too. Sir John Harington, the inventor of the water closet communicated in epigrams about the things of the world in the 16th century, and Martin Luther – if the legend if anything to go by – realized the interpersonal, decentralized form of communication by nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church.

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