The Language of Participatory Church: Frictionless Sharing


Continuing my series of blog posts on the language of participatory church, I want to turn to one of the top tech trends of 2011: frictionless sharing.

Introduced in September 2011 by Facebook to its 800 million users worldwide, the idea of frictionless sharing is to make sharing — what you’re reading, watching (TV, movies, or online videos), or listening to (via Spotify, for example) — automatic and effortless. Facebook wants to be the king of social sharing, because it’s a smart business decision — as user growth slows, sharing will continue to increase (at least doubling every year, according to Zuckerberg’s Law), especially if Facebook continues to make it easier and easier for its existing users to do so.

One of the interesting byproducts of this new innovation is that old news stories are becoming fresh fodder for online readers. As the Poynter Institute’s Jeff Sonderman astutely points out, “Sometimes a good story is just a good story, as long as it is new to you.”

I’m tempted to say something clever/deep here about the Gospel being the “old, old story,” but I’ll refrain. (If you want to share something in the comments, go for it!)

Instead, I’ll just suggest that it would also be a smart decision for our religious/faith communities to promote “frictionless sharing,” encouraging participation from the whole community — in storytelling, in worship, in decision-making, etc.


What do you think about frictionless sharing and religious/faith communities? What needs to happen to reduce/remove the friction? What others areas of church/community life could benefit from some friction reduction?



Tags: , , , , ,

Posted on 01-03-2012


  1. Caspar Green says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I’ve had mixed feelings about this frictionless sharing. I guess my reservations come from my own personal feeling when I first started encountering these things on Facebook (but even before that when iTunes Ping was offering to tweet in real time everything I was listening to). It just seems in many cases like TMI. Maybe I’m a prude, but I feel a little over-exposed (and with all my online activity, I’m already really out there compared to most folks in the church circles I’m used to).
    Between that and other experiences indicating that the most rapid form of church communication traditionally has been the gossip grape vine, I have serious reservations.
    That said, if it can be implemented in a way that promotes healthy community, I’m for it.

  2. Steve K. says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Caspar, I share your concerns about Facebook’s particular implementation of “frictionless sharing.” I think this article on Slate pretty much sums up the best argument against engaging thoughtlessly in it:

    I think, as far as Facebook is concerned, “frictionless sharing” goes against the notion of “curation” that I talked about earlier in this series. If all we’re doing is telling everyone everything we’re doing online, then that’s just adding to the noise. As a curator, I want to be very careful about what music shows up in my Spotify shares and what articles show up in my social reader shares. If I shared everything I read online or every YouTube video or every song I listened to, it would just be too much. The world is a better place when the tools allow us to sift through everything and help the good stuff to rise to the top.

    In the church sense, “the gossip grape vine” is certainly the epitome of the downside of sharing. I would equate that to the way that inaccurate or totally untrue information often spreads quickly online. Did Obama really ban Christmas trees? Well, no actually he didn’t. Those kinds of Internet memes are easily fact-checked by Snopes or other sites, but sometimes the damage is already done. Do we need a Snopes for church gossip? Maybe we do 😉

  3. Steve K. says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Interesting thoughts on “curation through unsharing” here, BTW:

  4. Chris Smith says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 10:44 am

    One could interpret Paul’s recommendation to the Corinthian church of a format for their gathering (I Cor 14), through this lens of frictionless sharing.

    That being said, I have reservations about the “frictionless” descriptor. I certainly don’t think there should be authoritarian friction/censorship, but I think a healthy dose of self-censorship or curation is important — as most folks do with posting to FB or other social media outlets. The end of church gatherings is not the fulfillment of our own selfish desires, but rather the pursuit of the common good. Thus, before speaking we need to consider our motives in speaking. Are we doing so primarily out of self-promotion or some other selfish end? Or are we seeking to contribute to the good and flourishing of the whole community?

  5. Steve K. says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Chris, I love that idea of viewing 1 Corinthians 14 through the frictionless sharing lens! But I also agree with you about the need for curation and, as you said, curation for the common good. I have some more thoughts about that in my next (and last?) post in this language series, coming tomorrow.

  6. Tripp Hudgins @anglobaptist says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I’m enjoying this thread, Steve. Thanks for it. I’m working something up on my blog as well (shameless plug). What I’m thinking about is the conversations I have outside the traditional church about the nature of doctrine and the boundaries of the community. The very short gloss of what I’m usually asked is “What if I disagree with you, the Pastor? Will I get in trouble? What if I don’t like everything the community believes? Am I still welcome?” Theology, doctrine, beliefs, the issue of who has authority and how it’s managed when it exists are a primary concern of “nones” and those who have elected to spend their lives outside of organized forms of Christian discipleship. Something “frictionless” is exactly what they are looking for. The dark side of frictionless community and theological sharing is that there is little accountability. The positive side is that it frees people up to love, explore, question, wonder and wander without fear of unjust censorship. So…Yeah. I dig it.

  7. Dale Lature (@dlature) says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    What you make me think about here first is the need for churches and theological resource orgs to implement some of the frictionless sharing pieces to hook up, WITH PERMISSION or “opt in”, the viewing stats and likes and such of their users to the social network. There needs to be, on the back end, via efforts by the churches and/or organizations, to curate these things into useful categories for their users. I tend to think of social media strategy for churches and orgs to be a resource for their users, not simply to self-promote, especially my own denomination, which I tend to see anyway. But it is difficult for them to get out of this box, since most “social media experts” cut their consulting teeth on marketing research rather than thinking more specifically theologically about what they want their “Social” to embody.

  8. Dale Lature (@dlature) says:

    January 3rd, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    also, when i say it’s “diffcult for THEM”, I mean churches and church orgs in general, not just my own denomination, which I had just mentioned. Just wanted to clear that up.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment via Facebook