Monday, September 16, 2013

Week 4- Mapping User Generated Religion

Week 4 - Mapping User Generated Religion
My chosen case study is focusing on the construct of religion on Twitter, specifically how users are responding to religious leaders on Twitter and how ordinary users who identify with a specific religion bring their beliefs into the Twitter world. My focus will be refined specifically to Catholicism.
Firstly, I will look at the Twitter account of Pope Francis:

My first observation is that the Pope is quite popular; he currently has 2,979,686 followers. Looking at his last three tweets from September 13th, 14th, and 15th, I see that two of the tweets offer general life advice. The third offers a reflection about Jesus and Mary. While these tweets are uplifting, another story is told in the comments of these tweets. I have read five comments so far, and all of them have been extremely negative. A few criticize Pope Francis and call him a hypocrite. These comments addressed a tweet that said, "Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy." I would say that this idea is rather counter to our current culture of always wanting the latest technology or gadget, and the comments support this. Twitter users have not taken this statement  about materialism well. The comments are much more positive on a tweet regarding getting to know one's neighbors. However on the tweet about Jesus and Mary, the tweets are again extremely negative and disagreeing. One user says that the tweet sounds like paganism; another comment questions the Pope's theology, disagreeing about the role of Mary. These three tweets have a combined total of around 15,000 retweets and about 9,000 favorites. So it is apparent that the Pope is reaching users on Twitter. There is both positive and negative feedback to the his online preachings.

The next Twitter user I will investigate is Mark Hart.

Mark Hart is the vice president of Life Teen, a Catholic organization that specializes in youth ministry. He is an acclaimed Catholic. I will be looking at his last three tweets from one hour ago, nine hours ago, and ten hours ago. His most recent tweet accounts an interaction between him and his daughters and a discovery of a treasure on Netflix. This tweet is not religious in any obvious way; it simply tells us that he is a caring father and a lover of Netflix. Hart's next tweet compares prayer to taking one's car to a trusted mechanic. This tweet obviously contains the religious word "prayer." He is not specifically talking about a Catholic idea. Hart is expressing a metaphor about the underlying goodness of prayer. This tweet has 45 retweets and 31 favorites. He is obviously not reaching as many people as the Pope, but Mark Hart does have an audience on Twitter. There are only two comments: one makes a joke and the other appears to be a spam tweet. Hart's next tweet is promoting his appearance on a radio show. While this tweet is not overtly religious, the radio show he mentions was surely a religious centered show. He is promoting an event that discusses religious ideas and inviting others to listen to this event. Hart is attempting to reach his followers and engage them in this radio show.

The last person I will observe in this blog is Jackie Francois.

Jackie is also an acclaimed Catholic. She is a singer and speaks at many Catholic youth events. Looking at two of her tweets from September 13th and one from September 11th, I find one happy birthday wish to her mother and two comments on articles. Jackie's most recent tweet links to an obituary along with Jackie's input of admiration of the woman the obituary is about. This tweet is not religious; it simply expresses Jackie's reverence for this woman who has passed. It show's Jackie's compassion for this woman. This tweet received 10 retweets and 13 favorites. This is not a huge audience but still a larger audience than an average Twitter user. People are reading Jackie's tweets. Francois's next tweet contains a heartfelt birthday wish to her mother. There appears to be nothing religious in this; we see that Jackie cares about her mother. The next tweet links to a blog entitled, "Love is not Tolerance," by Fulton Sheen. This article discusses the idea of love standing up for truth and not tolerating others to live lives of sin. This article mentions God and many religious concepts; however, it does not directly say anything about Catholicism. By posting about this article, Jackie expresses her views about love, truth, tolerance, and sin. She is broadcasting her beliefs in the Twitter realm. This tweet received 12 retweets and 6 favorites. There are no comments on any of Jackie's tweets. Jackie does not specifically post about direct theology of the Catholic Church, but she does express her own beliefs, opinions, and faith.

Twitter offers a unique form of communication. Anyone is able to post anything they wish on this platform. Twitter does offer the challenge of only being able to use 180 characters, so tweets must be rather short. Twitter offers a way to reach a large audience. It also offers a way to reach teenagers who compose the majority distribution of Twitter users. Twitter can and is being used to communicate certain religious ideas and topics; however discussion is limited with the character limit. Also, anyone can comment on tweets, so negative feedback is a major issue when presenting religious ideas. One might see a tweet from the Pope and think positively of it and consider applying to his or her life. After scrolling through the comments, however, this person might question the validity and truth of the Pope's message.
This platform offers an opportunity to express personal beliefs and opinions. One can openly share his or her thoughts on religion and receive feedback. Twitter users can also read others' opinions, beliefs, and theology on certain subjects. Pictures and links can be attached to tweets as well, so users have the options of utilizing these functions to share religious pictures or articles. Again, because of the character limit, users are limited on the length of their expression. Also, users may have a hard time gaining followers and broadcasting their beliefs which could be discouraging for some.
Each person I have studied communicates a message about religion. Pope Francis is using Twitter to share his insight and reflections about faith. He is showing an example of bringing one's beliefs into Twitter. He is showing that church ideals can extend beyond the actual church building.
Mark Hart also offers his reflections about religion and uses his Twitter account to promote religious events. He is an example of a good family man, and is using Twitter to be a role model to others. Hart is communicating that one can be inherently good without broadcasting beliefs and theology at all times.
Jackie Francois shows her faith and opinions on general topics through her Twitter account. Similar to Mark Hart, she shows her good virtues of kindness and compassion through Twitter. She is an example of a good human being and brings positivity to Twitter. She doesn't always quote theological ideas, but she expresses her beliefs on religious topics.

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