I recently read Leonard Sweet’s book “Viral, How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival.” It was an interesting read – as are most of Sweet’s books. He has a masterful way of turning a phrase, and is a brilliant observer of culture. However, I’m not sure he delivered on the subtitle (How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival).
What he does well is to distinguish between “Gutenbergers” and “Googlers”. Gutenbergers arrived in the 21st century with a history reaching back into the pre-digital age. Googlers are fully citizens of the digital age. He has a fun quiz on pages 4-5 to help you determine which one you are. (Hint, if you read the book in print version you are probably a Gutenberger, if you read it on Kindle you are more of a Googler.) I find that I am somewhere in between. I do have the pre-digital history – and yes, I read the book printed on paper. But I am someone who has wholeheartedly embraced the digital age as well. Hey, I’m blogging about it, aren’t I?
Another descriptive term he uses is TGIF culture. No, he’s not talking about Thank God It’s Friday. He is referring to the culture built on Twitter, Google, IPhones and Facebook. He spends a great deal of the book defining the difference between how Gutenbergers and Googlers function in the world. He believes both groups need each other, but the future obviously belongs to the Googlers.
Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the book:
“As little as ten years ago, half of humanity had never made a phone call and only 20% of humanity had regular access to high speed communication. Today cell phone coverage is available over 90% of the globe, and almost 77% of the earth’s population has a cell phone”
“The Arab Spring assault on (and even collapse of) a number of Middle Eastern and North African regimes is in part a product of the growing gap between the antiquated worldview of Gutenbergers and the cosmopolitan outlook of Googlers.”
“The average mobile phone has more computing capacity that Apollo 13 had.”
There is a lot of food for thought in the book, and he makes a good case for the viral nature of the digital culture. But, as I mentioned, I don’t see that good of a case for Social Networking igniting revival. Certainly, the world is much more reachable through the communication tools we now enjoy. And just like it did with the movable type printing press of Gutenberg, the church needs to jump on these tools in ways we have yet to imagine. But the question is: Will we?