Cicero’s Twitter: Tom Standage on the forgotten history of social media

To Tom Standage, “social media” is nothing new. Twitter and Facebook, he argues in his latest book, Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years, are simply the newest twists on an old form. People have always shared gossip and information in highly personal ways, from the Romans who scrawled quips to one another on the walls of Pompeii; to the courtiers of Tudor England, whose intrigues filled the pages of manuscript books passed hand-to-hand; to the coffeehouse intellectuals throughout Europe, who gathered together at tables piled high with the day’s news. Far from being a novelty, Standage points out, social media has always been with us.

The central premise of the book is that from Cicero to Thomas Paine to Mark…

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