Thursday, October 10, 2013

Week 7--Focusing Observations and Looking for Trends in Lived Relgion Online

For this week's blog, we are asked to investigate three more instances of how religion is performed on a specific media platform. I will be looking at three more examples of how Twitter users express their Catholic faith on Twitter and compare them with my previous findings.
I will begin by analyzing the Twitter account of Catholic author, Christopher West.

Looking at his recent tweets, I came across several references to Pope Francis's recent encyclical. West cites the Pope's writings several times in his tweets. One of his most recent posts states, "Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them..." This is a direct quote from Pope Francis. West also references his own personal blog in many of his tweets. In this blog, Christopher discusses a range of topics all centered around the teachings of the Church. Many of his blog posts relate the weekly church readings to modern ideas. Another tweet asks, "Who do I serve?" This is followed by a link to West's blog that contains commentary on the Bible passage discussing that no one can serve two masters. Christopher seems to be using Twitter to spread the teachings of the Church through sharing the Pope's message and discussing the Gospel.

Next, I will look at the Twitter account of my good friend, Kim.

Perusing Kim's tweets, I immediately came across one mentioning God: "I am wayyy too blessed. #allglorytoGod" Kim also posted a picture with a friend after going to Mass. I also noticed a religious related post that Kim retweeted that states, "Pointing fingers at the world's behavior is not the same as evangelization. Love the world, don't simply condemn it." Kim displays her Catholic-ness by the nature of her tweets. She does not discuss specific doctrines of the Church, but she recognizes God in her life and her tweets. Religion is part of Kim's life, and she displays this in her social media use.

Lastly, I will examine the Twitter account of Catholic priest Father Jonathan Morris.

Fr. Jonathan's tweets are largely about religious subjects. One of his recent tweets reads, "Hi, my name is Jonathan. I'm a sinner. I'm a Catholic priest. I love Jesus. I'm involved in many projects, but they don't define me." One of his tweets contains a photo of the tomb of St. Peter along with a few words about how Fr. Jonathan prayed for a miracle for everyone who asked him for prayers. Another notable tweet from Father Jonathan says, "Oh God, I trust that you will take my insignificant efforts today to do your will, the best I know how, and make them significant." This particular tweet had 36 favorites and 50 retweets. There were also several comments to this tweet, many saying "Amen" or "Thank you Fr. Jon." Father Jonathan has over 30,000 followers and his tweets average around 40 retweets each. He is using Twitter to express and share his faith with others, and his followers are receptive of that. There is interaction and self expression of religion through this social media platform.

These examples of performance of religion on a social media platform are similar to the previous examples I observed. Every person that I've looked at seems to use Twitter to express their religion and communicate their beliefs to others. They are looking to spread their faith to others and display something that is of value to them. The people I've observed talk about religion in a positive light. Many people, including Kim and Caity, express thanks and gratitude to God. Others, such as Ennie and Jackie, talk about the goodness of God and God's love. Still others, including Pope Francis and Mark Hart, talk about specific elements of the Catholic faith such as prayer and forgiveness.

As far as patterns or trends go, I've noticed that in general the users I've observed have posted positively about religion and have received positive feedback, with the exception of Pope Francis. Many people received numerous retweets and favorites for their religious posts. No one received negative comments except for Pope Francis. Something else interesting I found was that several of the people I observed follow each other on Twitter. Jackie Francois, Mark Hart, and Ennie Hickman all follow each other, and they each also follow Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan, and Father Jonathan Morris. Kim follows Ennie Hickman, and both Kim and Caity follow Pope Francis. It appears that a community of Catholics has emerged on Twitter. Many of these people retweet each other and tweet at each other. Catholics seem to be searching out other Catholics for inspiration and encouragement on Twitter. I would assume with all the negativity I've seen on Twitter and other social media platforms that religious people are looking for positive content on Twitter. This leads them to find people who believe in similar things as them and post positive messages.

Last week I observed that Catholic Twitter users were using this social media platform to spread and express their religion. Twitter is being used largely for evangelization purposes and to encourage fellow Catholics. Among all of the people I have observed so far, everyone has posted positive messages in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. These posts are not random or superficial; they appear to be a natural extension of one's life simply conveyed into an 180 character or less tweet. The findings I have analyzed this week are harmonious with my observations of last week.

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