Life & Style

Tom Standage: Lessons from Ancient Social Media at TEDxOxbridge (Transcript)

So I think that tells us that social media doesn’t actually cause revolution, as an underlying grievance, obviously, but what they do is they allow them to spread more quickly. One way this has been put by Jared Cohen at Google, is that they’re an accelerator. They don’t start a fire, but they help it to spread more quickly. I think that’s a very good way to think about it.

Finally, “Is social media a fad?” I hope I’ve convinced you that it has been around for a very long time. It’s not at all a fad. If anything was a fad, it was the “old” mass-media period. That was a historical anomaly, if you look at it in these terms. Now we have gone back to a more social model like we had before at the middle of the 19th century. But this time it’s supercharged by the Internet.

So social media is not a fad. It was the mass-media era that was an anomaly. Social media is here to stay. In fact, I hope I have convinced you that modern social-media users – all of you, I hope you’re all on Twitter – are heirs to a centuries-long tradition. I hope this will change the way you look at social media, that you’ll realize that all of these different modern activities have these historical predecessors. And so I hope I have convinced you that social media doesn’t just connect us to each other today, it also links us to the past.

Thank you.


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