Thursday, November 29, 2012

Q&A with Chuck Giacinto and Bryce Conlan - Cloud Culture

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.

So, this is like a social media “code of conduct” per se?

Actually, no. In the earliest stages of writing we realized how easy it would be to throw down a list of do’s and don’ts and write a “rules and regulations” book. We worked very hard to avoid doing that. I don’t think anybody really wants to read that anyway. I know I don’t. Instead, Cloud Culture is more of a “big picture” approach to it all. Social media will always be changing and advancing, so we wanted to start a dialog that discusses the fundamentals of how we communicate and navigate relationships from a biblical standpoint in this post-modern era. So, rather than a code of conduct, we want the Church to have the vision to see the possibilities and limitless opportunities available to us through social media. Cloud Culture is not intended to show you how to “do” social media. We want to start a movement, a movement that sets a foundation for relationships and communication that honors God and allows the Gospel to seep out of our lives in a real, organic way.

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.

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.

In Cloud Culture, you write that we should strive against using social media as only a platform for voicing our beliefs and opinions. What do you think about bloggers, and particularly those who spend the majority of their time calling out what they believe are problems in the Church?

Well, it is certainly a place and a platform to express ourselves, and our views, etc. That’s part of the beauty of it. My concern is that we don’t want to get lost in all of the noise as just having another set of opinions or beliefs among many. Ours is not just one more set of opinions out there. It’s the Gospel of Christ. And because of that, we have to remember what social media is about at its core…relationship and communication. So Cloud Culture isn’t about being good at technology; rather, it’s about being biblically grounded in terms of relationship and communication. As believers, when we’re sincere and good at both, that will come out and resonate in a real and honest way. As far as the problems in the Church or disagreements, we want people to realize that what we post has a very long shelf life. Long after we may have resolved a situation, it still lives out there. As Christians, more than anyone, we should realize the power of our words.

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 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.

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.

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.

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