Today, we share an enormous amount of information through social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. The most popular media that gets shared on social networks globally and become viral are usually humorous images or videos of babies and animals. Social media is a powerful tool to use because it can spread an image or video that everyone is talking about from person to person and even worldwide within a few hours. As we are constantly surrounded by hand-held technology like our smart phones, tablets or laptops we are drawn to using social networking sites multiple times throughout the day. During these visits we find out everything that our friends and family are doing, where they are, who they are with and what they are eating. We ‘like’ or comment on status updates, share images and videos and message our friends. It is an addictive, vicious cycle that never ends. There is always new information being uploaded and it becomes very difficult to stop scrolling and log off.
The first signs of sharing began in the town of Witternberg, Eastern Germany. Martin Luther, was ordained as the local priest in 1507 and later become a theology teacher in the town’s university. In 1517 Luther discovered that his congregation had been purchasing indulgences from a monk called Johann Tetzel. An indulgence was a written guarantee that prevented the churchgoer from being punished for their sins and secured a place for them in heaven after death, without having to suffer in purgatory. The majority of people did not realise that the only way a sin could be repented was through confession with a priest. By selling the indulgences, the church was raising a considerable amount of money to fund military expeditions and create large and decorative cathedrals. Martin Luther was completely against the scheme of selling indulgences to the congregation and much to his dismay Johann Tetzel had been manipulating the churchgoers into buying more indulgences to make a larger profit. Tetzel had been offering indulgences for future sins, like adultery as well as allowing people to buy them for relatives who had died, ensuring it would instantly free them from the suffering of purgatory.
This led an enraged Luther to write to the Archbishop Albrecht in disapproval of Tetzel’s methods of selling indulgences as well as his phrase: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, so the soul from purgatory springs”. Unbeknown to Martin Luther, Albrecht was using half of the profits to pay off his own debts and giving the rest to pay for the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica, in Rome. Luther included a list of ninety five theses written in Latin titled: “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” that he wanted to discuss at a debate at the local university.
The list of ninety five theses was placed on the castle church door, in Wittenberg – which was used as the university’s noticeboard. This created an instant uproar within academics in Wittenberg and then beyond even although it was written in Latin. Replicas of the theses started to disperse as a manuscript, followed by pamphlets and broadsheets appearing in Leipzig, Nuremberg, and Basel. After two weeks the list of ninety five theses’ had spread throughout Germany. All Christians knew about the theses’ after four weeks.
Freidrich Myconius wrote that: It almost appeared as if the angels themselves had been their messengers and brought them before the eyes of all the people. One can hardly believe how much they were talked about.”
(Standage, T. 2013)
Martin Luther initially shared his theses by physically sticking it on a noticeboard. This is practically identical to the way we share a status, image or video link on Facebook. The post originally gets uploaded to someone’s Facebook ‘wall’ and then our family or friends can forward it on to their own ‘wall’. We continue Martin Luther’s method of mass sharing everyday the moment that we sign into Facebook and begin reading the list of statuses.
Bbc.co.uk, (2015). BBC – History – Historic Figures: Martin Luther (1483-1546). [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/luther_martin.shtml [Accessed 20 Nov. 2015].
Haciendapub.com, (2015). Martin Luther, the Sale of Indulgences, and the Reformation | Hacienda Publishing. [online] Available at: http://www.haciendapub.com/randomnotes/martin-luther-sale-indulgences-and-reformation [Accessed 20 Nov. 2015].
Standage, T (2013). Writing On The Wall, Social Media – The First 2,000 Years. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing. p51-53