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Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to…

Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival

by Leonard Sweet

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Excellent insight into the digital culture that permeates our society today. Sweet refers to this culture as the TGIF Culture (Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook). And, the generation of people who have grown up in and live in this culture are called Googlers. Any of us who have grown up or lived in the generations prior to these Googlers are referred to as Gutenbergers. Why? Because we are accustomed to the printed word and the mindset that accompanies it (i.e. power of words, dogma, exactness, institutions, etc). Sweet does a terrific job in contrasting these two generations and explains what the Googlers are and what they are not. No matter how you may view these Googlers, they are indeed relationship and community minded. They may go about this in a matter that we Gutenbergers are not accustomed to (i.e. through texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Nevertheless they are relational. Relationships through Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. is how they do it. And, we as a church must face this reality, learn to become a part of it, or essentially become irrelevant. I highly recommend this work to those who are comfortable swimming in the Gutenberg pool and are dumbstruck about this new digital culture. And, I highly recommend this book to Christians who want to better understand this culture in order to be relevant in an increasingly post-modern, post-Christian era. ( )
  gdill | May 16, 2013 |
A discussion of current Internet trends and their possible impact on Christianity, the church, and evangelism in the future.

The author seeks to understand the impact of current Internet trends through the prism of the contrast between those whom he calls "Gutenbergers," those who feel at home in the culture sustained by books, modernism, and all that is able to be quantified and analyzed, and the "Googlers," those who feel at home in the culture sustained by social media, postmodernism, and all that is relational. The author considers himself as an ex-"Gutenberger" who has come to appreciate the benefits of "Googler" culture.

The book primarily discusses "TGIF culture," or the impact of Twitter, Google, the iPhone, and Facebook on life, faith, culture, and church. The author thinks quite highly of the value of "TGIF culture" and its emphasis on the relational aspects of things. He wishes they had more appreciation for poetry (a rather long aside in the book), and thinks there is great potential in the holistic, relational, interconnected world of the "Googlers."

The more positive assessment of modern Internet culture is good to see: too many times such books assume the inherent "rightness" and benefits of "Gutenberger" culture, over-emphasize the downsides of Internet culture while seemingly unaware (or unconcerned) about the downsides of their own culture, and prove to be reactionary.

On the whole, though, I struggle with the contrast being made between "Gutenbergers" and "Googlers," mostly because the categories are defined by media and the means of consuming media. Most of the time I can see the generational/cultural contrasts made by authors in books like these, but this one was more difficult, and it's probably because one cannot categorize merely on the basis of prevalent media. Shifts from modernist to postmodernist thinking, the toppling of the Enlightenment paradigm, among other things, shape and inform the contrast between "Gutenbergers" and "Googlers" as much, if not more so, than using books vs. using the Internet. The contrast is useful inasmuch as it helps to inform why there are such differences between the "Gen-X/Buster" and "Gen-Y/Millennial" generations and the "Greatest/Builder" and "Boomer" generations. So yes, the attitude toward the Internet and the re-shaping of thinking, learning, researching, and connecting because of the Internet does have some explanatory power, but ought to be subject to these greater trends and themes for them to be fully appreciated.

I'm concerned that the author might be a bit too rosy regarding the "Googler" culture, but time will tell. If nothing else, the book might encourage "Gutenbergers" and "Googlers" to be better able to appreciate which each brings to the table and to supply what the other lacks. That is far better than for each group to despise each other and to attack each other, and is more consistent with 1 Corinthians 12:12-29.

An interesting analysis, and one that is useful to stimulate thinking.

**--book received as part of early review program. ( )
  deusvitae | Aug 13, 2012 |
NCLA Review: There is a lot being written on social networking and the church. Some is critical and raises concerns about the effects of new media on society and ecclesial life. Others serve as handbooks to the digital church, offering insights on how to make the shift to the digital age. Sweet’s book conforms to neither of these types, and for this reason among others, it is a necessary addition to your church library. Sweet, known widely in the church for his insights into shifting culture and its implications for theology and Christian life together, has written an amazing book that looks at social networking from a generous and welcoming perspective. Examples: a subtitle for chapter five, “How Twitter Produces a Better Follower of Christ.” And this quote, early in the book, that gives a sense of how open to, and passionate about, the social networking era Sweet has become: “How many cultures in history have devoted so much effort, invention, time, and passion to building networks that offered no payoff beyond engaging with other people?” The book includes an initial comparison of two cultures, the Gutenberg and the Google culture. Sweet then offers meditations on some of the primary social networks: Twitter, Google, iPhones and Facebook. For those of us raised in the Gutenberg culture, the final appendix on “How Gutenbergers Can Learn from Googlers” is the icing on the cake. Rating: 4 —CS ( )
  ncla | Jul 31, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307459152, Paperback)

The gospel is nothing without relationship. And no one gets it like the Google Generation.
God came to earth to invite us, personally, into a relationship. And while Christians at times downplay relationships, the social-media generation is completely sold on the idea. In Viral, Leonard Sweet says Christians need to learn about connecting with others from the experts—those who can’t seem to stop texting, IM-ing, tweeting, and updating their Facebook statuses. What would happen, he asks, if Christians devoted less attention to strategies and statistics and paid more attention to pursuing relationships?
The current generation is driven by a God-given desire to know others and to be known by others. Most of them, in seeking to connect in meaningful ways, have found a place of belonging that is outside the organized church. Why not bring the two together?
Those who are sold out to relationships can teach Christians how to be better friends to people who need God. At the same time, members of the social-media generation can learn how to follow their desire for belonging, straight into the arms of God. It’s time for relationship to be restored to the heart of the gospel. And when that happens, can revival be far behind?
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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:33 -0400)

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