Dwight Schrute might be one of the best television characters of all time…certainly one of the most creatively conceived. Who doesn’t love a proud beet farmer with the gullibility of a 5-year-old? That being said, it should come as no surprise that Rainn Wilson, the actor responsible for Dwight, knows how to make a crowd laugh. What might make you raise an eyebrow, however, is that Wilson has used his fame as a platform to create a new type of social conversation – or as he calls it, “de-lamifying talking about God.”
Soulpancake.com is a website that urges users to explore creativity and spirituality; a place for people to post their “big questions” and turn them into big conversations. Scroll through the page and you’ll find yourself starting to wonder “do you judge your day by what you’ve accomplished?” or “if you died today would you have any regrets?” or any of the other topics users are engaging with. With 5,000 questions and 100,000 comments posted each month, Soulpancake isn’t battling Facebook and Twitter, but it’s certainly providing a lot of people with a powerful outlet for discussion.
What makes the site such a wonderful conversation tool is that it was created after Wilson became Dwight Schrute and therefore financially successful. He had no proposed revenue streams and still doesn’t (he jokingly asked the crowd at SXSW for advice on making Soulpancake profitable). The site isn’t about garnering corporate attention for advertising space; it’s about positive, creative, thought-provoking dialogues that move religious discussions away from taboo and into embraced.
As the site has grown, Wilson has plans to launch a Youtube channel and potentially a television series on the Oprah Winfrey Network. It’s clear that Wilson understands how powerful of a tool social media is and has decided to use it not for commercial gain but to give others what he has – comfort in discussing his spiritual and religious beliefs. So often we think of social media as the commerce platform that it’s become, rather than the conversation platform which it started as. By thinking high level (pun intended), Rainn Wilson is bringing us back to basics.