Op-Ed: The Path to Your Soul Is Through Your Smart Phone


A few years ago, the web changed. You might have missed it with so many entertaining distractions of auto-tuned news videos and tweets about what the Lost finale actually meant. But sometime between the last two presidential elections, the Internet started pushing smart, uplifting, and creatively cool content to the world that actually meant something.

In each of their own ways, these socially conscious media outlets (think SoulPancake, TakePart, GOOD, Oprah.com, TED, Tonic.com, etc.) have had to relearn how to best open up people’s hearts and minds. Part of that is a realization that, even in a digital world—and sometimes especially in a digital world—reaching an audience is an ever-changing kind of thing.

Think of it this way: A person is never at the same place in their life twice. I’m different today than I was yesterday, and I’m different this year than I was last year. And therein lies an inherent challenge in reaching people: We’re all literally becoming new human beings every day.

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So media and content providers have had to learn how to continuously connect with and serve audiences that are never actually the same. For many web entities, including us at SoulPancake, that means no longer considering ourselves a destination, but rather embracing (and I mean with huge hugs) a more distributive model for content that is not isolated to one platform or community.

When social consciousness first started percolating on the web, we all wanted to make THINKING and exploring BIG IDEAS cool. At SoulPancake, we went so far as to add spirituality and philosophy to the roster. We wanted people to explore their lives and worlds with us, chanting the mantra of: “Hey, come to us! Let’s meet up here in our little spot.”

I hate to use the whole church parable, but in this case it works. Going to church was the first generation of coming together with a positive and uplifting community. Like Sunday services, we were asking our users and communities to go somewhere, to leave their lives and routines and come to us in order to find meaning. But what we’ve now realized is that the church model doesn’t work online. Instead, socially conscious content is best consumed when (and where) it’s distributed. Our job is to learn where people are—and then show up next to them in convenient ways. To be ready to connect when they’re ready to connect.

Over the past four years, the rise in viewing the Internet on mobile devices has helped to open all of our minds to that eventuality. In 2008, when we founded SoulPancake, mobile was still in its infancy, and people relied almost entirely on their computers to access the Internet. The shift of that online activity to mobile devices has been dramatic. The thinking is clear: “I am going to live my life, and my phone is along for the ride. So, you had better be on it, or you’ll be left behind.”

To me, what this means more than anything else is that the new era of positive, uplifting, and socially conscious media has to put a tremendous focus on mobile. We have to be a little snack of goodness when a pre-activated activist tires of playing Angry Birds. We have to be the mind-opening video they watch when they’ve seen Gangnam Style just one too many times. We have to be in their pockets, ready and waiting to give them a little something more.

After all, who doesn’t want to feel good and thoughtful and uplifted?

Regardless of where people are in their journey, if you help them realize how fascinating the world is and the part they can play in it, they’ll eventually seek you out as well. Until then, a “come to us” mentality just doesn’t work. From now on, we’ll come to you.

What is the most inspiring thing you have seen on your phone? Forward it in COMMENTS.

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Devon Gundry is co-creator and CEO of SoulPancake; co-author of the New York Times bestselling book SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions; and executive producer of the SoulPancake show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. With an academic background in engineering science and a passion for music, film production and web development, Devon is part-scientist, part-artist. As a social media entrepreneur, Devon has worked for a variety of web startups and has culminated his love for technology and creativity in the inception of SoulPancake. SoulPancake | @devongundry