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11.30.2012

Cloud Culture ~ Blog Tour

Cloud Culture
Walking the Walk and Typing the Talk:
Christian Living in the Social Media World
By Chuck Giacinto and Bryce Conlan

You are what you Tweet....
Your social presence is an extension of you.  What you communicate is you.  Do you present yourself differently socially than in face-to-face encounters?  We need to stop and take a look at who we are in all aspects of our lives.

Who are you?  Would your friends and followers know you if they met you in person or do you hide behind your screen-name?

Cloud Culture takes a look at this new frontier that we are exploring and the risks that are involved as we are increasingly drawn into this world.  This is a social world that allows us to instantly reach around the globe and speak our mind.  What do you consider worthy of announcing to the world?  Think about it.  What do you post, tweet, or pin?  Is it your latest shopping trip?  Or is it something that has profoundly touched your life and could do the same for someone else?

Our words can change the world for better or worse.  Are you prepared to follow in Jesus' steps and reach out to people in grace and love?  We need to live what we believe, when we fight amongst ourselves we tear  down our own witness.

We must relate to people in a personal way and not be an isolated island among the ever shifting social sea.  When God created us, He said we are not meant to be alone.  By connecting in this digital social world we have become more alone than in any other time in our history.  Our world has become smaller and we have instant access to anyone with the internet but we don't truly know the person living next door or sitting next to us at work.

We must turn this disconnect around and use this gift to help others as Jesus would.  He would not gather hundreds (or thousands) of people around Him and announce the great deal He had just gotten at the local Walmart on a candy bar or a pair of shoes.  Jesus told us to go out into the world and to share His good news of salvation and a Social platform enables us to go throughout the world and share the Gospel without leaving our home or country.

Cloud Culture is a unique look at the blessings and dangers associated with our new social world.  There are valuable insights that will help any user of social media.

I was provided a copy of this book for the purpose of this review, all opinions expressed are my own.
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Cloud Culture giveaway
Want to learn more?  Check-out the excerpt and interview below.
What are your thoughts?
Post a comment with your email in the following format
bloomingwithbooks (at) gmail (dot) com
to be entered.
Entry period runs November 30th - December 7th.
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Excerpts taken from Chapter 4 - Power of the Key
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Taken from Cloud Culture, Copyright 2012, by Chuck Giacinto and Bryce Conlan. 
Published by Seven Leaf Press, Chicago, IL. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Q and A session with 
Chuck Giacinto and Bryce Conlan

 
So, what is Cloud Culture about? 
Cloud Culture is about social media, but I don’t want that to scare anybody off because this isn’t a techie, computer-oriented book at all. We feel that social media, at its core, is about two things: communication and relationship. We believe God designed us with a need to know others and to be known by others and Cloud Culture, while it addresses current social sites, is really about how to develop deep personal relationships in this new and evolving landscape, and, ultimately, where our faith fits into that.

Why now?
Well, we feel this book could come out next year or five years from now, and still be relevant in terms of its concepts, regardless of how the landscape of social media changes. But because of the void there has been regarding a real conversation in the Church about social media, along with the approach we wanted to take, we felt a sense of urgency to be on the front end of this conversation.

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.

Chuck, you are a worship pastor and producer. And Bryce, you own a media production company. What’s your experience with social media?

(Chuck) My experience initially is like that of many of your readers. I’m a parent. And I use social media personally, and I text. But yes, I’m also in ministry and handle much of the online media for our church. So, the majority of my use is not that different from your readers. This book came out of my/our everyday uses of social media and texting…from the most mundane parts of our life to the most important…and seeing this tremendous void in dialog in the Church regarding our place as Christians in social media…and what’s possible with it! Because Bryce and I are not computer geniuses or experts, we've come at this from a non-tech place, but hopefully in a way that every reader can really relate with and benefit from.

(Bryce) As a media professional, my company would often get hired to create commercials and viral videos for companies looking to keep up with consumers’ expectations from a website. So we’d make the video and deliver it to the client only to get an email back saying, “I love it, now what do I do with it?” So I started looking into ways that I could help them use social media to power their businesses and was shocked when I realized how much influence one person could have through social media. It really changed the way that I approached social media.

I’m sometimes truly surprised at what people post on Facebook—even fellow Christians. What should a Christian consider before posting a blog, a tweet, or a Facebook status update?

Always consider your audience. One of the marks of a Christian life is self-control and that means that sometimes we don’t say that thing we want to say for the benefit of others. This can be wildly difficult, and we discuss it at length in Cloud Culture. It’s so important. Another thing to consider is context. Many of the problems, disagreements and offenses via social media or texting come out of our abbreviated new sentence structure and the loss of context for the reader can be painful. So we really need to take a second and reread our postings. Taking a few extra seconds and using a few extra words for example could bring a lot of clarity to the recipients of your post.

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.

What do you say to those who feel that social media—especially sites like Facebook and Twitter—are simply idle chatter, gossip sites, or at the most, entertainment?

It is all of those things. It is also what we choose to make it. Those shallower aspects will always be an overwhelming part of social media. The question for us is, “What is MY contribution to social media, and what does God want to accomplish through ME in the lives of those I’m connected to?”

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.

So, what is worth sharing online?

If it’s worth something to you then it’s worth sharing because it is about relationships and there is an entertainment factor to social media. And there’s nothing wrong with that. From the lightest moments to the most important, it’s all part of sharing our lives with those around us. At the heart of posting or texting as a Christian is this, “Will my words encourage and build up? Will this create community? Intimacy? Am I pointing people to Christ? Am I visibly demonstrating the face of Christianity that I should?” If so, post it! And there’s nothing wrong with posting the scores from last night’s game either.

Do you find that people are lonelier now than ever...even with all their Facebook “friends” or Twitter followers?

Yes - and we think science is beginning to support that notion. TIME magazine and Newsweek have both recently run fascinating articles on the subject. It’s a paradoxical situation that we find ourselves in. On the one hand we’re more connected and integrated into each other’s lives than ever before. On the other hand, people are feeling more isolated than ever - and confused as to why. In Cloud Culture we refer to this as the human element. When God created us His second observation of Adam is, “It’s not good that man should be alone”, and yet many of us live in a reality with limited face-to-face, eye-to-eye interaction. And that can lead to very serious depression.

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.

In Cloud Culture, you write, “It’s a true sign of maturity and Christian character when you can restrain yourself from leaving remarks that will only fuel the online conversations which are neither edifying nor productive.” How does a Christian handle this type of temptation?

You know, it’s not easy. There are certainly things worth defending. But it does require some discernment. It’s easy enough to misinterpret each other speaking face to face. But when typed or texted, and we abbreviate and condense our thoughts, there is again a real loss of context, which makes it very difficult to communicate well this way. Sometimes the most constructive thing we can do is to choose a different path. Pick up the phone and talk, or speak face to face. There’s an amazing amount of healing that takes place when someone takes the time to call and resolve the issue personally rather than the quick text message of tweet. Sometimes skipping the new convenient route for the old fashioned one is the wisest choice.