Did you catch the Cloud Culture review in yesterday’s post? The authors were kind enough to provide a Q & A session and I thought I’d share it with you to showcase a little bit more of their hearts and the story behind the book. Hope you enjoy it! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!
Q&A with Chuck Giacinto and Bryce Conlan
Who did you have in mind when you wrote Cloud Culture?
We wrote this in a way that multiple sets of people will benefit. Our youth have grown up with social media and they know no other way. This will help them get a foundation of understanding what the Bible says about the power of their words. Also, parents need this because they often feel ill-equipped regarding social media. They’re just trying to stay afloat themselves with all of the changing technologies, not to mention parenting their kids through it. That’s where Cloud Culture comes in. And last, it’s for those in the ministry. We want pastors and youth pastors to feel well equipped to speak and function confidently in this new landscape that NEEDS to be pastured. They’re just trying to keep up as well with it all, and their congregants need guidance. This is where we want to help. And we feel the book will serve those in ministry well. But to date, we have gotten tons of positive feedback from people who don’t fit any of those profiles. So we’ve realized that if you’re a Christian and you’re involved in social media, no matter how directly or indirectly, then you will benefit from reading Cloud Culture.
How does social media look different for a Christian versus a non-believer?
In one respect it looks the same. It’s how we communicate. It’s literally our lives and relationships on display. Where it looks different for the Christian is that we strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard and even consider how what we say will affect those on the receiving end of our posts. Are they just acquaintances or people we want to impress or stay in touch with? Or do we really SEE them, as God sees them? Are we open to reading between the lines to see people’s need and to realize that we have been handed these amazing tools that no previous generation could have dreamed of to communicate with the world? Cloud Culture isn’t really a formula. However, it is an encouragement and a reminder that you are in a relationship with God, and, if THAT relationship is strong, it will naturally spill over into social media in a real and genuine way that a formula can’t produce.
At one point, you write that it’s important to realize that our words, comments, links, and posts go out and become part of other’s daily lives—a gift and a responsibility. Do you think most people think about this when updating their Facebook?
No, I (Chuck) don’t. In my experience most people just shoot from the hip. Imagine you have all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers in one room together and you get up in front of your audience of hundreds and say, “Now that I have your attention, I want you all to know…I’m eating a really good sandwich.” OK, there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but what we want our readers to realize is the size of the audience you have at your disposal every day. If you could say something to them all, what would it be? And the reality is you CAN do that! Social media is literally an outlet and a platform for you to speak directly into people’s lives every single day.
You talk about Christians being ambassadors of Christ. How does that look on a practical level in the social media world?
(Chuck) It looks much the same as in our real lives because that’s what people are watching unfold on social media–our lives. I’ve been married for 21 years, and if there was no trace of my relationship with my wife in my social media, well, that would speak to some real issues. So, how can we conduct ourselves daily in social media and have our relationship with God nowhere to be found? And not forced or fake, or out of a sense of duty, but a natural reflection of the place the relationship holds in our lives.
How have you seen Facebook being used in what you would say is the right way?
I see it all the time. Sure, there are a lot of misuses, poor choices made, and opportunities missed by Christians in social media, but there are also many who get it, and we see that everyday as well. In fact, while we were writing the book I (Bryce) accidentally reconnected with a friend from middle school through social media. As it turns out, she was now a Christian on a missionary journey through a dozen countries in Central and South America. Each day her team posted photos and testimonies from the previous day. It was really encouraging. They also posted things that they needed, whether prayer or actual physical needs. It gave those of us watching online an opportunity to partner with them and participate in what they were doing. That is, of course, only one of a long list of examples we could give.
Do you believe there is a higher purpose for social media than what most people use it for?
Sure. It can be an escape, entertainment, a habit or in some extreme cases even an addiction, but I believe that based on the number of times daily the average person checks their Facebook, texts, etc., it seems like the obvious opportunity to connect with people on a personal and intimate level. And it may seem strange to think of social media in this way. It’s something that we call “reading between the lines.” To go beyond the words and posts and see what people are really saying, and use it as a touch point where we can really connect. That’s what Jesus did.
Facebook just hit the 1 billion user mark, with about 75 percent coming from outside the United States. How does this impact a Christian?
It’s so exciting to think of the possibilities that exist for the Christian today. Just recently a church planter in India reached out to me (Bryce), and now regularly updates me with testimony of the amazing things God is doing in India. I’m also connected with a pastor in Pakistan – a place where Christianity is quite unwelcome – and keeps me updated with their needs and what people can be praying about on their behalf. To take it one step further, we literally, for the first time in history, can have an influence on the believer and unbeliever alike all over the world without ever leaving your home.
What are some practical ways to reach people through social media without simply just posting daily Bible verses?
One thing we can do is work at fostering real relationships within our networks. Another thing is to reach out with a private message when we can see that someone is struggling. There are other ways too – less public ways. For example, what if everyone reading this today looked at their Facebook friends list or Twitter followers, then picked one person and prayed for them today, and did the same tomorrow. It’s a quiet act, and maybe no one would know, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a remarkably powerful. Imagine if we could get thousands or perhaps millions to do this on a daily basis.
What are some practical ways churches specifically can reach people through the use of social media?
The Church really can’t bury its head in the sand regarding social media…not to be current…or relevant…or hip…or even to just post upcoming events…but to not pass up the opportunity to speak directly into people’s lives…DAILY! You know, for a lot of people, it’s a long journey from Sunday to Sunday…and churches can really help to fill that gap for their people…to stay connected…to be in their lives every day. And we want to help those in ministry to feel confident to operate in this landscape, so that it’s not just about keeping congregants informed about what’s on the church’s calendar, but to speak INTO people’s lives daily so that worship, and edification, and support is an ever present thing and accessible at any moment. What a gift that is!
People seem to announce everything on their social media accounts whether appropriate or not. When are of the times when social media shouldn’t be used?
In my opinion, if it’s truly important…don’t text! We know texting and driving is dangerous, but texting out of emotion can be dangerous too. More on the social media side, I’ll give you an example I’ve seen multiple times. In a case of tragedy or a person’s passing, I’ve seen comments, postings, even heartfelt condolences on social media before extended family or close friends have even had time to be properly notified…and that’s how they receive the news. There needs to be SOME level of restraint and protocol, but nobody’s ever really addressed it. As Christians, we could be the ones to set some standards. Look, when two Christians disagree or argue back and forth about something or someone, or scripture or church on Facebook, they often carry on as though it is just them having the conversation. But the reality is that if one person has 400 friends and the other has 300 friends, then they have an audience of 700 watching this play out. And we may not have any idea how many lives are being affected, or how their view of the Church…and God… is being shaped by such posts.
What do you think social media will look like in the years to come?
It’s almost impossible to know, and I’m sure someone is already hard at work imagining and building the next big social media platform. But I am sure of two things. First, it’s not going away. Social media only stands to get bigger and hold a bigger place in our lives and culture. And second, whatever form it takes, whatever it looks like, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or the next big thing, it is still…at its core…ultimately about communication and relationship…and how we “do” both. And because of that, what we are setting out to accomplish with Cloud Culture is to lay down some principles that aren’t limited to any current or popular platform that could be out of date or out of business tomorrow, but instead we want to establish a standard as Christians for how we communicate with each other, how we relate to those around us, and ultimately how we represent the cause of Christ.