How Social Media Launched the Reformation
We tend to think of social media as something new, invented in our lifetime and only possible because of the Internet. But it isn’t so, according to the article at The Economist link above.
Consider Martin Luther for example. He famously launched the Reformation by posting 95 theses on a church door as an open invitation to debate. But what converted that single act of an unknown theologian with fringe beliefs into a movement capable of standing against the immense power of the Catholic Church was not only the force of Luther’s ideas, but the fact that they were spread so quickly using new technologies, such as the printing press.
Parallels with how we use social media today abound. Woodcuts married powerful graphics to brief written statements, similar to blogs. Broadsides and pamphlets were distributed for free, as most of the blogging platforms on the Internet are virtually free, with software programmers choosing to offer their code via open source agreements. Arguments between Luther and his ideological opponents were conducted in the public view via brief, widely distributed written statements, and the time between one man’s comments and another’s reply was very brief, much as we see in online discussions via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms today.
Humanity has made great strides in communication and the liberation of information through the Internet. But for the sake of humility in these heady times of technological innovation, the history lesson in the article above is a good reminder that at the fundamental level there truly is nothing new under the sun.