‘Viral’ by Leonard Sweet – Chapter One
Essentially, Leonard Sweet’s latest book, Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival, is about a tale of two cultures, the waning of one, and the rise of another.
The first he refers to as the Gutenbergers, named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the first printing press in the 15th century, forever changing the way literature is made and circulated.They have a tendency to focus on the written word (or text) and at times equate these words with the living out of one’s faith. The precision of the printed word has caused them to view faith as propositional truth statements that in turn provide the ground of certainty needed for faith to be considered real. They define success in terms of the size of their accomplishments and church buildings. Ultimately, they emphasize the theoretical dimension of faith, rather than the practical, leaving little space for authentic connections.
The second group he classifies as the Googlers – the digitized, globalized group that spends much of its time getting to know people in a virtual world. He defined this group of people as the TGIF generation – twitter, google, iPhone and Facebook. While often criticized by the Gutenbergers as being shallow and aloof, Sweet sees the exact opposite playing itself out in their collective and consistent emphasis on seeking connection with others. While Gutenbergers may know how to define what relationships are with precise detail, Googlers have just added 200 new friends to their Facebook page. This shift from theory to practice has lead the two groups to view each other with a deep sense of suspicion.
However, while both groups have their own set of problems and areas of promise, the Googlers are definitely poised to do very well with their collective focus on relationships, virtual and otherwise.
Gutenbergers use words as a means to an end, primarily to form systematic and didactic arguments in favor of their specific brand of Christianity. Googlers, on the other hand, use words more pragmatically, to initiate and develop relationships. And, not always around a common theme. They tend to foster relationships out of a desire to simply connect with another. As they share interests and ideas, common themes begin to emerge that they may gather around and promote. However, these common themes are not the reason they exist, nor do they form the basis of their relationships. Rather, they flow organically out of their relationships, which have been established solely for reasons of connectedness and the need to belong. I like that.
All in all, I like where Sweet is heading in this book. If the introduction and first chapter are any indication, he is definitely on to something that we all need to pay careful attention to.
More to come…