With the promise of a constant and unpredictable stream of news, messages and gossip, coffeehouses offered an exciting and novel platform for sharing information. So seductive was this new social environment — you never knew what you might learn on your next visit, or who you might meet — that coffeehouse denizens found themselves whiling away hours in reading and discussion, oblivious to the passage of time.
Social media today is not about the hot new site. The coffee-house social media of the 1600s were not about the coffee. What makes it social is that people with diverse points of view and varying knowledge convene and converse in public.