Social media is nothing new – the Romans were doing it.

This is according to the writings of Jonathan Salem Baskin – much respected marketer, author and blogger. His latest book “Histories of Social Media” explains that the behaviours we all talk about so much as new – Twitter, Facebook etc etc – are actually all really based on very ancient human practices. His entertaining analysis compares jousting and duelling with pistols to arguments in chat rooms. We should all relax about negative comments and apparently vicious attacks online – it’s better than being shot at or poked with a spear.

Salem Baskin’s take on the much talked about, and generally accepted idea of the Wisdom of the Crowd is almost chilling. His historical comparison here is with the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution in the 1790s. (As you’ll remember this ended badly for Marie Antoinette.) People died for their political and religious opinions on a widespread scale but also because they simply fell under suspicion of not being revolutionary enough.

The Romans come up in reference to crowd pleasing in the Colesseum – great if you’re in the audience – not so good if you’re a Christian or a Gladiator.

All of this gels with my overall theory that there was never anything new about new media anyway (technology aside). Anything that succeeds does so because it delivers against basic human instincts and drives, and indeed ingrained habits from generations ago. So the 20th century may end up looking like a digression when you take the long view as social media gives us back the ability to be in touch with everyone we meet always (like you were usually if you grew up in a village in the middle ages), and Ocado delivers my essentials just as the local grocer did for my great grandma.

See http://historiesofsocialmedia.com/?page_id=107 for a daily shot of history. And get hold of his book if you like a bit of perspective on everything that seems to be changing so fast, but perhaps is just mostly back to the future.

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