"Standage captures quite beautifully the essence of the human need to connect and interact, both its banality and world-altering power." —Publishers Weekly
"A thoroughly fascinating look at the evolution of social media." —Booklist, starred review
“Provocative . . . a wealth of information.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Standage has just this one big point to make, but he makes it elegantly and instructively . . . what we tend to regard as the radiant novelty of the digital age may really be a rebirth.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Tom Standage once again displays his ingenious gift for connecting our historical past to the debates and technologies of the present day.” —Steven Johnson, author of Future Perfect and Where Good Ideas Come From
Social media is anything but a new phenomenon. From the papyrus letters that Cicero and other Roman statesmen used to exchange news, to the hand-printed tracts of the Reformation and the pamphlets that spread propaganda during the American and French revolutions, the ways people shared information with their peers in the past are echoed in the present. After decades of newspapers, radio, and television dominating in dissemination of information, the Internet has spawned a reemergence of social media as a powerful new way for individuals to share information with their friends, driving public discourse in new ways.
Standage reminds us how historical social networks have much in common with modern social media. The Catholic Churchs dilemmas in responding to Martin Luthers attacks are similar to those of todays large institutions in responding to criticism on the Internet, for example, and seventeenth-century complaints about the distractions of coffeehouses mirror modern concerns about social media. Invoking figures from Thomas Paine to Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet, Standage explores themes that have long been debated, from the tension between freedom of expression and censorship to social medias role in spurring innovation and fomenting revolution. Writing on the Wall draws on history to cast provocative new light on todays social media and encourages debate and discussion about how well communicate in the future.