Update June 2013: I wrote an Op-Ed on this topic for the New York Times, which draws modern lessons from the 17th-century concerns about the distractions of coffeehouses.
Here’s an extract from my forthcoming book (to be published in October 2013) on the prehistory of social media, from the Roman period to the present day. (A previous extract, about Martin Luther and social media, is here.) You know how you can easily lose track of time while checking Twitter and Facebook? And how people worry that social media is distracting people from doing real work (aka “social notworking”)? The same thing happened in the 17th century with coffeehouses, a new social-media platform where people went to read and discuss the news:
With the promise of a constant and unpredictable stream of news, messages and gossip, coffeehouses offered an exciting and novel platform for sharing information. So…
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