The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Community News Network

November 5, 2013

5 historical pioneers of social media: Martin Luther invented the listicle

LONDON — Before PSY blew up YouTube, before @Horse_ebooks became a Twitter superstar, even before the world discovered LOLcats, there was the apostle Paul - early Christian missionary, eventual saint and, it turns out, a pioneer of viral media.

Today, we think of social media as a uniquely modern, uniquely digital phenomenon, one that only took off in the last decade - really in just the last five years. In fact, today's bloggers and tweeters are heirs to a surprisingly deep and rich tradition that began with the Romans 2,000 years ago, helped cause the split within the Catholic Church, aided the U.S. fight for independence, and prepared the way for the French Revolution.

Put down the iPad, my children, and gather round. Here are five historical pioneers of social media - figures who went viral long before the Internet.

1. The Apostle Paul

Paul of Tarsus was the most adroit user of the Roman social-media system, harnessing it to amass followers and bind together the scattered communities of the early Christian church, and promote his ideas on how the church should develop. Written on papyrus rolls in the 1st century AD, his open letters - or epistles, as we now know them in their New Testament form - were addressed to specific churches (the Book of Romans is a letter to the church in Rome, for example, and Corinthians is a letter to the church in Corinth) but were clearly intended for wider distribution, like a Tumblr post sent out into the world to be blogged and reblogged. Initially, church leaders would read them out to the members of their congregation. But Paul also expected recipient churches to copy and share his letters with other churches nearby. As he wrote in his letter to the Colossians: "After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea." Copies of the letters rippled across Paul's network of churches, so that they each ended up with a complete collection. Readings from Paul's letters became a part of Christian worship, and they eventually came to be seen as scripture by the early church, whose leaders incorporated them into the New Testament.

In its early years, Christianity consisted of rival movements whose members disagreed over the meaning of Christ's teachings and his intended audience for them. Paul used social media to ensure that his view prevailed, cementing the establishment of the Christian church as a religion open to all, not just to Jews. Such is his influence that his letters are still read out in churches all over the world today - a striking testament to the power of social distribution.

               

2. Martin Luther

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014