Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 6- Identifying Trends in the Performance and Constrution of Lived Religion Online

In this post I will be examining my findings from the past few weeks and drawing comparisons and conclusions about the performance of religion on Twitter.

The six people I looked at on Twitter were Pope Francis, Mark Hart, Jackie Francois, Caity Tarrabocchia, Ennie Hickman, and Cardinal Dolan. Two of these people are leaders in the Church. Three of these people have a history of working in youth ministry, and one is a college student at Texas A&M.

Because of the nature of Twitter, performing religion on this platform is somewhat limited and provides little variation. There is a character limit of 180 on Twitter. Posts can include words, a picture, or a link. Because of these parameters, the tweets of the people I observed offer little variation. The majority of the people I observed used only words to communicate their thoughts; Jackie Francois used a link to an article in one of her tweets. Caity used a picture of Jesus in one of her tweets. A few of the twitter users including Caity and Cardinal Dolan chose to directly quote scripture in their tweets. Most of the users reference Jesus or God in some way in their tweets. A majority of the tweets I analyzed contained thoughts and reflections on certain religious ideas such as forgiveness and prayer. Mark Hart compared prayer to going to the only mechanic you can trust. Cardinal Dolan tweeted about the importance of prayer even though it may be difficult at times. Ennie offered a few insightful thoughts on the nature of Jesus saying, "When we fail, God doesn't call us out; He calls us to supper." These people offer support and encouragement to their audiences. They offer ways to apply and think about religious ideas in the world today. They seem to be using Twitter to evangelize, reach out to their modern audience, and reaffirm the teachings of the Church. People like Caity and some of the Twitter users who commented on Cardinal Dolan's and Pope Francis's tweets also seemed to use Twitter as a space for public expression and validation of religion. They wanted people to know of their beliefs and see that there are others out there who believe the same things. All of the posts I have observed have been in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church and therefore have not been conflicting with each other.

These findings have implicated that people are using Twitter to perform religion. The six people I observed use Twitter to express their thoughts and ideas regarding religion as well as seek to encourage and spread religion to their audiences. These people are not harsh or accusing in their tweets; they offer encouraging and insightful thoughts regarding religious ideas. These tweets are a natural extension of themselves and their expression on Twitter.

My proposed research question for the rest of this assignment will be as follows:
Within the Twitter realm, how do users express, share, and promote religious ideas and thoughts thereby performing religion, and how has this created a network of support among fellow believers and a platform for evangelization and promotion of religion?

My research has uncovered that there is vast population of people who use online media to perform religion. I have found that Twitter is not primarily used for religious purposes; it is most often used to keep up with the day to day activities and thoughts of other users. However, religion is incorporated into many people's Twitter usage. Twitter offers a place to spread and promote ideas, and many people utilize this platform to express their religion and beliefs. People do this by quoting scripture, stating their own thoughts on religious teaching, and posting reminders of God's works and qualities. This has created an online community among members of the same religion. This will help me to focus my study on the performance of user generated religion online by looking at this incorporation of religious ideals and considering the motives and outcomes of this religious performance.

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