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Early Twentieth-century Social Media

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Because social media isn’t new, it’s worth examining postcards to look for commonalities and differences between early twentieth-century social media and present-day digital social media. David M. Henkin, in The Postal Age, makes the point that our use of such media is tied to our desire for a sense of connectedness: “For social, cultural, and political history, the important question is not how fast information travels in absolute terms or relative to previous records for land speed, but how new media connect physically separated parties within a shared temporal framework” (n.p.). Tom Standage is also sensitive to this underlying impetus when he traces how “the social nature of media has dramatically reasserted itself” in these early years of the twenty-first century. Postcards represent an intriguing moment in social media history before and during the birth of mass media, revealing how social bonds were curated through and shaped by the network of the postal system.

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