I’ve had the opportunity to hear Leonard Sweet speak on one or two occasions and have read some of his other writings. I like his insights and how he sees how the church can impact culture. I also find myself having to read a paragraph a couple of times to really grasp what it is he is trying to say. While he is a student of culture, he also brings his love for history and poetry into his writing. He definitely challenges your thinking.
In Viral, he draws a distinction between two groups of people. One groups he called “Googlers.” Sweet sees them as natives to the culture of social media. The other group he calls “Gutenbergers,” meaning those who grew up in the culture of the printed word. I found it slightly ironic that his message about a more digital form of media arrived to me in printed (paperback) form. I think it shows the continued tension that exists as part of our culture has embraced the digital while others cling to printed text.
Sweet uses this acronym in his book: TGIF. It doesn’t refer to the well-known phrase many use as they anticipate the weekend. Instead, he gives it new meaning to highlight the growth of social networking: Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook. In his book, he explains the impact of each of these on our culture.
One of the big distinctions Sweet points to about the Googler versus Gutenberger culture is the idea of connection. Those who have embraced social media in its many forms are about connecting with others. While some in the Gutenberger camp see the connections as superficial, for the Googler, they are relational connections.
Sweet encourages the church to take advantage of the desire for connection. Throughout Viral Sweet looks at ways the church and individual Christ followers can make use of social media to advance the message of Jesus.
Viral would be a good read for both the Googler and Gutenberger. Social media has and will continue to impact our culture. Our response will be how we chose to make use of it.