This week I will be examining the question: does digital media strengthen or weaken individual's ability to construct or perform their religious identity? For reasons I will explain and also from examining the social media site of Twitter.com, it seems that digital media does play a role in strengthening religious identity.
Twitter is a social media site based on user-produced and consumed media content, usually focused on social commentary (“About”). Twitter allows its users to follow the posts of any users they so choose; many people occupy Twitter (“About”). From celebrities, real and fake, to religious leaders such as the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and Christian pastors from various denominations, Twitter is loaded with opinions on life from every direction (Meadows, 2011). Due to this whirlwind of opines constantly being posted, it seems that it could be easy for users to be influenced by those that they follow (Meadows, 2011).
Users of Twitter are able to have their religious identities shaped by choosing to follow other users for whatever reasons, which, over time, can change the beliefs of the user (Lövheim & Linderman, 2005). In example, for a Baptist of the Southern Baptist Convention, following reformed pastors such as John Piper or Tim Keller can result in subtle changes to their beliefs if they take the tweets seriously. If the same person were to jokingly follow users such as @weeCalvin, a user who tweets quotes from the Reformation era theologian John Calvin and answers other users’ questions about the beliefs of John Calvin, the user’s religious identity could still be strengthened, just not toward the Calvinistic agenda presented by the Twitter poster.
In the end, we see that digital media does strengthen an individual’s ability to perform their religious identity since they can be influenced by other users of digital media.
About. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.twitter.com/about
Lövheim, M. and Linderman, A. (2005) ‘Constructing Religious Identity on the Internet’, in Højsgaard, M. & Warburg, M. (eds.), Religion in Cyberspace, 121-137, London; Routledge
Meadows, C. (2011) Personal observations of Twitter. Retreived from http:// http://twitter.com/#!/CaseyTM