Have you heard the news? Abraham Lincoln invented a fore-runner of Facebook. No, really! It must be true because it said so on the internet.
Well, the hoax was exposed within a day, but not before a lot of major news sources fell for it. Here’s an excerpt from the hoax article:
The whole Springfield Gazette was one sheet of paper, and it was all about Lincoln. Only him. Other people only came into the document in conjunction with how he experienced life at that moment. If you look at the Gazette picture above, you can see his portrait in the upper left-hand corner… But just to the left of his picture, and above that column of text, is a little box. And in that box you see three things: his name, his address, and his profession (attorney).
The first column underneath his picture contains a bunch of short blurbs about what’s going on in his life at the moment – work he recently did, some books the family bought, and the new games his boys made up. In the next three columns he shares a quote he likes, two poems, and a short story about the Pilgrim Fathers…
Put all that together on one page and tell me what it looks like to you. Profile picture. Personal information. Status updates. Copied and shared material. A few longer posts. Looks like something we see every day, doesn’t it?
And it goes on:
Lincoln was requesting a patent for “The Gazette,” a system to “keep People aware of Others in the Town.” He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself… Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where “every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors.”
This right here should have tipped anyone who read this off that this was a hoax, by the way: the use of the word “page” sounds very odd here, not at all like someone from the 1800s would use it, and exactly like someone familiar with the internet would use it.
And surely it must have struck the people reading this that the concept is on its face absurd. People would have no need for such a tool back in the 1800s. They already had town newspapers. The faux-proposal sounds just stupid when you put it like this. This, again, should have given the whole thing away.
What this hoax exposed–perhaps unwittingly–is that Facebook is not a lot more useful than a town newspaper. It gives you some ability to stay in touch with your friends, but for the most part it’s just a time-waster. It’s addictive, sure, but not all that useful. It is barely more than a glorified bulletin board. or newspaper.
Lincoln invent Facebook! The idea is laughable at first sight!
He was much too smart for that.