What Does God Think Of Social Media?


The majority of the people I associate with in the physical world don’t blog — or read blogs — aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, and probably haven’t heard of LinkedIn or Pinterest. But social media is here to stay and seems to be growing in its influence. If in doubt, listen to how many businesses now have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Recently a couple of our local TV stations held contests to encourage people to “Like” them. (The prizes were pretty good, too, and I seriously considered putting my name in the hat.)

Another interesting and somewhat related piece of information — WordPress has recently added a new breakdown of my stats. I now can see by country how many views my blog receives.

By country? That startled me the first time I realized people in other parts of the world can read what I’m writing, but since then I’ve had editing clients or inquiries from Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Brazil.

These new stats confirm that, for whatever reason, people from various parts of the world are clicking over to A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

What a small world we are becoming.

Like most things, there are pluses and minuses to this amazing technology. Cyber-bullying has become an issue, but support communities have sprung up for people suffering from abuse or various types of cancer or any number of things. Identity theft has become a problem, but PayPal and online banking has made doing business easier and less time consuming. Dangerous relationships have developed on the Internet, but so have opportunities to help, pray for, and support someone like Katie Davis and her Amazima Ministry.

So what does God think of all this?

I believe He cares about all the stuff of our lives, big or small. He cares about the collective direction the world is taking, and He cares about the personal ramification for each person.

The last time the world got together in such a unified way, God split us up. (See Gen. 11:1-9). Prophecies of the last times, however, suggest there will be unified action again.

All of this togetherness, then, seems to be unfolding according to His sovereign plan.

And for the individual? I’m not sure things are different. If we are to be honest in our face to face relationships, I feel confident God expects us to be honest in our online interactions as well. If we are to be kind to our neighbors, then I believe we are to be kind to our Facebook friends, blog guests, Twitter followers, and the rest.

God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, hasn’t given us a pass to be rude to people we’ve never met, even when we disagree with them.

Granted, sometimes we don’t realize how our words are coming across. As was mentioned in the recent discussion about fiction, when it comes to writing, intent and interpretation both come into play to yield understanding.

I’ll be honest. I wish I had thought about what God thinks about the Internet years ago. I wish I’d considered what others might be thinking as they read my part of discussions. And I pray that I’ll remember what He thinks about it tomorrow, too.

The Internet and social media are here to stay, and God should be as much a ruler of my thoughts and actions in cyberspace as He is in my living room or church or car.

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm  Comments (9)  
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We Want To Be Cats, But We’re Sheep


Maybe I should have titled this post, “I want to be among the cats, but I‘m just one of the sheep.” After all, should I be speaking for you?

I’m a little irritated right now at Facebook because they dare to speak for me — or more accurately, to think for me — by selecting what they deem to be my “Top Stories.” But they’re no different than Google+ who has determined what other G+ users I would most likely want to invite into my circles.

I think these social networking sites have taken their cue from cars that not only give you directions, but might park for you and change braking capacity in the rain. Those with alarm systems tell you (loudly) when something untoward is near.

The problem is, I’d rather think for myself. I like driving and don’t really appreciate being told to put on my seat belt. I like choosing my own routes and think map reading is a good skill to have.

But more than that, I don’t want to be told who my friends should be or what posts I should want to read. I want to think for myself and kind of assumed everyone else felt the same way (which is why I say “we” in the title, but I realize I am sort of playing the role of Facebook by doing so).

Perhaps this desire for independence is part of American Rugged Individualism we hear so much about — some of which I believe. I mean, for people to pull up stakes and move across an ocean or to a foreign land where few people speak your language, you have to have a bit of individualism in you, I think.

And no matter how short or how long an American’s ancestors have been here, there is some value-passing that has preserved that spirit of going it alone against great odds.

However, I think there’s some of this independent spirit in all Mankind. It’s not actually a good thing, either. It’s our desire, like small children do with their parents, to tell our Father that we can do it on our own.

In spite of all this drive for independence, though, we — and this is the right pronoun this time — end up like sheep. Scripture says so. Besides Isaiah 53 that says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (v. 6a), Jeremiah paints a picture I think reflects our world today:

My people have become lost sheep;
Their shepherds have led them astray.
They have made them turn aside on the mountains;
They have gone along from mountain to hill
And have forgotten their resting place. (Jeremiah 50:6)

The passage originally referred to the Jewish people, but since all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to see Gentiles in the same light — as sheep who are lost, who have shepherds leading them astray.

Now cats — they don’t let anyone lead. They don’t allow for herding. They scatter whithersoever they desire. But us sheep, we go where we ought not go just because everyone else is going there. We don’t always even notice where it is we’re going because we’re not paying all that much attention.

This is why we need a Good Shepherd. Cats, though, even if they had a Good Shepherd, would still go their own way. Eventually they’d end up high in a tree and too scared to climb down, too ornery to let anyone near enough to help them. Maybe being a sheep isn’t so bad. 😀

Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm  Comments (3)  
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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?


How does one book take off like wildfire and another die like a match in the wind?

On one agent blog today I read about how she and a fellow agent had gone out to celebrate because their client’s book had stayed on the NYT best-seller list for twelve weeks. In fact, sales were rising, and the title had climbed to #2, with a shot at #1 if things continued to progress. The thing that I noticed in particular was how surprised she was that sales were growing, not shrinking.

Another agent today mentioned an article about how short the life of a link is these days. Apparently, if people don’t respond to your Facebook link or Twitter link within the first couple hours, they aren’t going to respond.

Out of sight, out of mind?

On one hand, this doesn’t surprise me because I know my own Twitter and Facebook habits. As a general rule, I’m not visiting my friends’ walls and reading their updates for the last few days or weeks. Instead, I’m reading the most recent updates whenever I pop over to my home page. Same with Twitter.

On the other hand, though, I’ve thought of book sales as a growing thing — the PyroMarketing approach. Mind you, I haven’t read Greg Stielstra’s book.

I do know that a good portion of new releases only stay on bookstore shelves for three months, that another portion of them are routinely returned to the publisher, never having been in the hands of a potential buyer. So I’m not saying naively that a book is bound to grow in sales simply because a writer tells people about it on Facebook or Twitter. And yet, I’ve believed the publishing marketers who say that word of mouth is the best marketing there is. Consequently, it seems sales should start to rise as word begins to spread.

One more thing to consider. A small press publisher tweeted today that book blog tours are largely worthless. Of course it’s a tweet, so no added information as to why this particular person reached this conclusion. You might guess that I have a different opinion, but here’s a professional who doesn’t see the return for the time spent organizing others to post about her books.

Not so long ago, author and friend Mike Duran hosted a discussion about social media and book marketing. It was interesting to see that some thought the online chatter was overrated.

So I come back to that first agent I mentioned, the one who was so excited their client’s book was increasing in sales. Could it be that the Facebook/Twitter model, something equivalent to a person’s fifteen minutes of fame, is the norm for most books — a quick blaze that fires hot for that three-month window, then burns itself out?

Does this happen because our culture is so ready to move on to the Next Big Thing? But if that were the case, then how is it that Harry Potter could remain such a huge commodity for over a decade?

Is the answer in the lack of persistence on the part of the author and publisher? After all, a book that’s been out for three months is about to be eclipsed by the author’s next release. So the efforts and emphasis now are going toward the book that will be, not the one that was.

In this environment, how, then, can a book/author grow an audience?

I’ve thought some about the phenomenon of The Shack because that book seemed to burn brighter and brighter. In relating its success to the factors I wrote about over at Spec Faith on Monday, I’d say it succeeded because it had three of the five elements I identified.

But The Shack had something I’d never seen before — in the back, the author listed action points for a satisfied reader to take to spread the word about the book. Rather than letting the book fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category, or hoping that the reader would seek out the author online, this plea to spread the word almost became a part of the book.

It was unique and perhaps unrepeatable. And perhaps that’s the thing that will spread the word about books — something that isn’t an imitation of what others are already doing.

– – – – –

There are still three days left to vote in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll.

Published in: on September 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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Speculative Fiction And Social Media


You may or may not be on Facebook and/or Twitter, but I’ve been hanging out at Facebook for a while now and getting the hang of Twitter slowly but surely.

I see some real advantages to these new forms of communication, the main one being the opportunity to reconnect with people I thought I’d lost track of for good. It’s a kick for me to see pictures of my former students, all grown up now, and to find out where they’re living, who they married, how many kids they have … daily stuff. After all, that’s how we knew each other when I taught them.

Some, I know, do stop by A Christian Worldview of Fiction from time to time, but Facebook allows us to “meet in the hall” and say hi as we used to do. It’s brief and incomplete, to be sure, but still far better than nothing, from my perspective.

And then there are readers who like what I like, or something close to it—fans of fantasy and, more generally, speculative fiction. Some months ago, a handful of us who were writing for the team blog Speculative Faith revived our efforts. We invited new writers to join us and saved Friday for guest bloggers. It’s been a great success.

In addition, our new webmaster set up a Facebook account. For a time, all we did there was link to the blog and invite people to “like” the site.

Then a couple weeks ago, I got the idea to add a daily “Book News” feature. I invited speculative writers to include their book news as they wished if there wasn’t already a news feature posted that day. Or they could send me their news and I’d post it. We’ve had a good response—more people following, more people “liking”—though I think some might be shy about posting their notices.

I have to say, I really like this. Some of you might remember that I’d started a newsletter, Latest In Spec, to pass along news about Christian speculative literature. While it was a good idea, I never made it work the way I envisioned. Too often the “news” was already old by the time it got into the hands of interested people, and to be honest, few people really like to read the personals. That’s what LIS was like.

Now at Spec Faith Facebook, we can include news tidbits in a timely manner. And far more people can become informed since friends of friends may also see the notices.

Today we have another development. CSFF Blog Tour is now on Facebook too. I’m excited about this opportunity to be more visible.

I want to see as many people learn about the tour as possible. I’m constantly finding a pocket of Christian speculative literature fans here and there, many who are still ignorant of the books that are out there for them to enjoy. Any new way of getting the word out is a plus as far as I’m concerned.

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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Promotion, Promotion, Promotion


In his comment to yesterday’s post Alex said

you really have to wade through the muck to find someone with something interesting, or purposeful to say.

I suspect the flood of trivia, junk, dirt, spam, ads, and promotion has only just begun. Businesses have discovered the goldmine of marketing through bloggers. And people like me who want to create buzz about a particular something (in my case, Christian fantasy) will undoubtedly proliferate.

So do we all just jump on the spam wagon and ride it for all it’s worth? I don’t think so. Having something to promote does not mean I have to become a spammer.

If I have a product or know of a product that I think someone else might be interested in, then it’s worth talking about. That’s a far cry from a) lying about a product and saying it’s good when it isn’t; or b) pretending that everyone I know will be interested in it, when I know they won’t.

In my mind, what separates legitimate promotion from spam is this: honest evaluation and care for the consumer.

Believe me, I’ve read posts and emails and status updates that turn me off because no matter what the subject, in the end the person ends up telling us about his latest work or her latest book. Sometimes those are appropriate and fit in well. But sometimes those kinds of comments simply sound self-serving.

It reminds me of the complaints that were bandied about regarding Christian fiction being preachy. If the writing comes across as propaganda, then it ruins the story. I don’t see any difference in writing non-fiction—blog articles, emails, or tweets.

So what is propaganda? From Wikipedia: “propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience.” There’s the thing—the purpose of propaganda is actually to manipulate others. It goes beyond information. Here are examples of each.

Information: I like this, and I think other Christian women my age might like it too.

Propaganda: This is the best one yet, and your life won’t be complete unless you too, all of you, buy now, before the price goes up or they run out of the autographed edition (or hardback copy or accompanying tee shirt … )

Propaganda: Yellow Labs and Golden Retrievers are popular dogs, which reminds me of how popular my book has become.

😀 Yeah, promotion can morph into propaganda, and as I see it, that’s not a good thing.

What’s What with Social Networking?


So here’s my question. What do you think about social networks? I mean, first MySpace was all the rage, then Facebook, and now Twitter.

Once upon a time, I was involved in a growing online community, Faith in Fiction. We discussed books and writing and faith. It was a happening place where mostly wannabe authors congregated. A good number of those authors are now published and have blossoming writing careers.

But along the way, some of the regulars weren’t so regular any more. As it turned out, they had moved to the suburbs—they’d started their own blogs and were building their own communities. Consequently, they no longer had time to visit the old neighborhood.

Obviously I eventually followed suit. But now come the social (and business, a la LinkedIn) networks. Are these the new ‘burbs? Are people leaving Blogland for Twitterville? And why would they?

Is it time? Perhaps no one wants to take the time to read 400-800 word articles when you can touch bases with a scant 140 characters. But touching bases at what level? Can a person communicate anything meaningful in a Tweet?

As near as I can determine, Twitter was never intended to be a place for meaningful connection. Facebook gives many more options, but still, the format seems to encourage shorter bursts of thought or fun and games.

I had envisioned that my presence on Facebook might bring more visitors here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, but so far I don’t have the numbers to back up that premise (although it’s a little hard to tell since I’ve been involved in two blog tours in the short amount of time I’ve been on Facebook).

So I’m wondering. Is our culture creating a sound-bite mentality? If it can’t be said in an easily repeated catch phrase, it isn’t worth saying … or reading?

Honestly, I feel privileged. I mean, Facebook has put me back in touch with many, many people I thought I’d lost track of.

But I’m wondering if the post-Facebook crowd, who no longer drives or walks or sits without an iPod playing or a cell phone implant hanging from their ear, will have people with whom to reconnect. I mean, what are friendships made of these days? Virtual coffee or St. Patrick Day shamrocks, a one line “sorry you’re having a bad day” bit of encouragement? How real are the connections?

This inquiring mind wants to know.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (11)  
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