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‘Viral,’ by Leonard Sweet

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The author explores how social media advances the cause of Christ and why he feels “social networking is poised to ignite...


‘Viral,’ by Leonard Sweet, Waterbrook Press, 2012, 240 Pages, ISBN-13: 978-0307459152, $14.99

Leonard Sweet’s new book, “Viral” is all about the digital age of technology and how the virtual world of connectivity and relationships of social media relate to the gospel. Although written by a George Fox University professor, the content is entertaining, with well-developed ideas, and is easy to read and understand.

He begins by describing two tribes of people, “Googlers,” who feel “…most at home in the twenty-first-century.” This group comfortably navigates the virtual world and uses cell phones, Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn with regularity.

The other tribe he describes as “Gutenberger’s,” a group more comfortable with the tools of Johann Gutenberg, who first introduced printing to Europe in 1438. This group, shaped by twentieth-century Cold Wars, the Beatles, a space race and presidential assassination prefers books printed on paper. They sporadically or rarely use the digital technology of the virtual world.

While both tribes have the basic need to feel a sense of belonging, acceptance and relationship, the author believes “Googlers” “freely admit” and seeks ways to fill that need in the cybernetic world, whereas “Gutenberger’s” remain constrained, uncertain and a bit fearful of the digital age.

Which begs the question, what does this have to do with Christianity? A Christian lives a life of faith molded by the culture they inhabit, writes Sweet, “…shaped by the…experiences, technologies, and cultures” they interact with. Sweet’s focus is how advances in digital technology and the computer-generated virtual world have changed the core culture we live in.

Sweets definition of culture encompasses a literal, factual “… place or period” in time. For the tribe of “Gutenbergers,” the culture of 1960 would bring specific events to mind, such as the Beatles and Kennedy’s assassination. However, the tribe of “Googler’s” would recognize the cultural term Google as an internet search engine or home page.

“…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 status,” writes Sweet.

Sweet believes young people want connection, demonstrated by their use of networking via Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn. If they can’t find that connection inside the church, “…they will leave in favor of relationships outside [the church.]”

Readers learn how Twitter changed the author’s life and why he believes social media made him a better follower of Jesus, why “…Googler’s represent the greatest hope for rescuing the world.”

The author explores how use of social media advances the cause of Christ and why he feels “social networking is poised to ignite revival,” the subtitle of “Viral.” Practical and insightful, I recommend “Viral” to pastors and church leaders who want to reach and attract the younger generation.

Learn more about social media and social analytics from Seattle’s Social Media Club:

Twitter: @GailWelborn

FaceBook: Gail Welborn





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