‘Viral’ by Leonard Sweet – Chapter Four – Technology and the Reshaping of our Relational Dynamics

Young Girls Operating Cell Phones with a Young Boy (10-14) Standing Behind Them

Martin Cooper’s invention of the cell phone in 1973 changed everything. It has become, for many, to be the dividing line between the BC (before cells) and AC (after cells) generations. Referring to it as a “transformational device,” Sweet contends, and I agree, that “these technologies are radically reshaping our relational dynamics in both the real and virtual worlds.” He continues, “What started out as a system limited to making and receiving calls began, in 1973, to evolve into the arbiter of life’s relationships and an inseparable companion on the journey.”

Yet, rather than focus only on the changes in technology, Sweet is interested in understanding the impact of these changes on human relationships. As a way of capturing some of his observations, allow me to provide a few brief points.

  • the cell phone has intensified our inability to be alone, even for a few minutes.
  • it has changed the way children access information, resulting in a total reversal of historical learning modes. The reversal is now adults (largely from the Gutenberger world) need their children to help them access information. Adults are like immigrants in a new world, depending largely on their kids to help them navigate the unknown culture. In essence, children are the natives and the adults are the cultural immigrants.
  • there are both augmentations and amputations taking place as a result of these monumental shifts in technology. With the passing of one form, comes the beginning of another, with both positive and negative implications following close behind. However, from a positive vantage point (though Sweet also contends for a negative side as well), in a TGIF culture, everyone has a voice. From a Christian perspective, it enables and empowers people to speak about the love of God.

Sweet concludes the chapter with this challenge -

It is time for all of us to move into the TGIF world, and to move the TGIF world toward the gospel. Social networking has created a ‘culture’ that breeds virality. And this virality could easily become the virtual petri dishes of Christian revival. Googlers are poised to carry out this mission.

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