Recently there was a great opinion piece in New York Times Sunday Review. The title was “Social Networking in the 1600s.” The author, Tom Standage, was addressing those who criticize social media for being a mind-suck and drain on professional productivity. Have you heard those criticisms? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.
In Standage’s article he points out that social networking has faced this kind of criticism in the past, specifically in the 1600s when the coffee house emerged as a gathering place for intellectuals, scientists and thought leaders. Evidently coffee and coffee houses emerged in England around 1650. They were imports. According to Standage, in the 1600s “patrons would visit their favorite coffeehouses several times a day to check for new mail, catch up on the news and talk to other coffee drinkers, both friends and strangers.” And what would they discuss? “Some coffeehouses specialized in discussion of particular topics, like science, politics, literature or shipping. As customers moved from one to the other, information circulated with them.” (Source: New York Times, Sunday, June 22, 2013.)
Standage points out in his article that some amazing things happened as a direct result of coffee house conversations – including significant innovations in the way people thought about economics, science, politics and mathematics.
I encourage you to check out “Social Networking in the 1600s.”