Social media and social media platforms have been around for ages and have seen many, many adaptations and improvements as they’ve developed to keep up with the changing times. A recent article from The New York Times discussed the history of social media and quite possibly its very foundations in the modern world.
According to the article the first modern social media sites began in England during the late 1600s as a new social-networking site became popular: the coffeehouse. A foreign commodity and location itself, coffee and the coffeehouse became a staple very quickly in London as people from all walks of life would meet and discuss subjects of all nature. Sometimes particular coffeehouses would serve a purpose to bring about particular conversation, such as science, trade or other businesses, much like an online forum today. As people from all backgrounds and ideologies would meet and intentionally speak with others they knew or didn’t know, they would develop ideas that began changing entire theories of those times and that helped improve and progress existing ones.
As people met in these coffeehouses to discuss the latest pamphlets, news-sheets and gossip, they created a network much like that which we see from platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Ideas began to be shared and developed to help encourage breakthroughs and modernizations from previous, soon-to-be extinct forms of communication, business and thought. Even Sir Isaac Newton had developed his “Principia Mathematica” from an argument spurred in one of these coffeehouses.
Today, as social media flourishes at rates that are difficult to comprehend, many business owners and administrations find that employees are affected by these “weapons of mass distraction,” on a regular basis and have determined they are costing the American economy $650 billion each year.
For as distracting as social media may seem, its original intentions were more altruistic and aimed for social, economic and even religious supplementation. The innovations we see that come from social media today are on a very technical side, as the world of the Internet keeps expanding. It’s difficult to sort the necessary from the unnecessary and the pertinent from the petty. This is perhaps why we keep compartmentalizing these social media platforms from larger conglomerate forms to fit more niche audiences and users.
As with any social media platform that develops there is always a period of adjustment while the company works out the kinks and users find the most successful forms of use for themselves. These issues and concerns are a minute-to-minute battle and increase the depth of our ever-growing technological understanding. It will be interesting to see where the social media trend will take us next.