by Leonard Sweet
WaterBrook Press, 2012.
Guest Review by: Faith Tsai
“The real question is not ‘Would Jesus tweet?’ but ‘What would Jesus tweet?’” (65). In Viral, Leonard Sweet has written a guidebook for those of the former generation to the social media culture of the rising generation. Sweet calls these two people groups the Gutenbergers, or those who grew up using ink and paper, and the Googlers, or those who primarily grew up with modern technology. Sweet knows his subject both theoretically and practically. As the author of over thirty books including real church in a social network and The Church in Emerging Culture, Sweet calls himself a former Gutenberger who now loves Twitter.
In Viral, Sweet takes an analytical approach to explaining social media culture. Sweet does not address practical methods for implementing social technology in the church. The subtitle of the book, “How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival,” describes, instead, the potential that social networking has for evangelism. In doing so, he seeks to help readers grasp an accurate understanding of Googler culture and the possibilities it has for the church.
Sweet organizes his book into six parts—an introduction, a conclusion, and four sections in between titled Twitter, Google, the iPhone, and Facebook, or as Sweet calls it, TGIF culture. In each of these sections, he addresses how Googlers use that form of social media, and how it works within a Christian theology.
Sweet also outlines the differences and similarities between Gutenberger and Googler culture, and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of both. As the book’s title suggests, though, Sweet primarily promotes Googler culture because “the future belongs to Googlers, but not for long” (10). As culture changes, the church must learn to adapt in order to accomplish what Christ has called his followers to do—make disciples of all nations. Sweet understands that culture will evolve again in the future, but for now, it belongs to social media. With Googler culture, Sweet especially emphasizes the value that the new generation has placed on community, and encourages Gutenbergers to learn from them. Social networking does not distract from Christianity or destroy relationships, but Christians can and should use it to spread the Gospel faster and farther than before.
Though Sweet leaves the practical application for his readers to figure out, in Viral, he does his job in portraying the mindset and values of the social media generation, and the potential for TGIF evangelism.