Facebook’s Edwardian Ancestors

Edwardian FacebookA week ago today we donned our party hats in celebration of the 10th birthday of our favourite social networking site, Facebook.

With words like ‘unfriend’ sneaking their way into the dictionary, and it becoming the done thing on a night out to give out your full name to the object of your affections (favouring an unobtrusive friend request rather than an uncomfortable phone call), Facebook is less a networking website and more a way of life.

And this is borne out by the stats. It is the second most visited website in existence beaten only by Google, and has a whopping number of active users per month – 1.23 billion (or to put that into perspective about one sixth of the human population of the world). What’s more, an ITV Daybreak poll found that almost a quarter of viewers self-diagnosed themselves as social media addicts. It’s safe to say the world has gone Facebook mad!

But what Mark Zuckerberg didn’t tell us all was that he actually stole his billion pound business idea from… an Edwardian parlour game. Yes, face-book was a popular pastime in 1902 as recorded in the Exeter newspaper The Western Times. It involved posh party guests drawing their own masterpiece portrait and proudly sign their name underneath. The Edwardian newspaper reports that “The result is very amusing and the worst drawings frequently cause the greatest entertainment.”Edwardian facebook

Now admittedly the Facebook we know today has evolved somewhat from this primitive form, but we can definitely see parallels between the two. So before you press ‘post’ on the next embarrassing drunken photo, or god forbid the next ‘neck and nominate’ video (which we in no way condone), spare a thought for what your Edwardian predecessors would’ve thought.

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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