Friday, October 28, 2011

Christianity and Identity

This week identity and religion was explored. Identity was defined as the process in which an individual develops the capacity to grasp meaning of situations in everyday life and their own position in relation to them. Social networks, such as Facebook, are one of the main outlets that teens and young adults express their identity. However, is their religious identity incorporated into their social networking sites? Does digital media strengthen or weaken individual’s ability to construct or perform their religious identity? Piotr S. Bobkowski in his article Self-disclosure of Religious Identity on Facebook said that while “religious faith and practice hold considerable importance for many young people in the United States” they seem to “lack the knowledge or vocabulary to cogently articulate their beliefs.” However, the article suggested an interesting statistic showing that in 2007 The Bible was the second most mentioned book on Facebook’s “Favorite Books” category, second to Harry Potter. Bobkowski performed a study in which he interviewed five undergraduate students who expressed that young people might not list themselves as “Christian” in their profiles but they “self-disclose their religious identities in the context of their offline activities and relationships.” These five students all attended a church service every Sunday and all were faithful members to a Christian organization on campus, yet none of them listed themselves as Christian in their profiles. Some students said they just didn’t see the box while others didn’t want viewers of their profile to get a negative image of them just by seeing their religious views. By this statement, it would seem that digital media weakens individual’s ability to construct or perform their religious identity. Facebook intimidates some users from expressing their religious identity with its ability for thousands of people to view your information and “judge” you based on the content of your profile. Today’s society uses Facebook to identify more about someone they may know little or nothing about. If you meet someone at a party, a lot of times you’ll go home and look them up on Facebook. If they were acting belligerent and drunk at the party, but their profile says they are a Christian and lists all the religious activities they are a part of, you may wonder why their online and offline behavior doesn’t match up. To avoid these judgments, people have chosen to leave their religious affiliation out of their profiles. Certain employers are also now using Facebook to research their interviewees. As sad as it may sound, some employers might base their decision to hire on a person’s religious affiliation or lack of affiliation. In today’s society, religion identity has become a sensitive subject that not everyone is ready to encounter.

Bobkowski, P. S. (2008). Self-disclosure of Religious Identity on Facebook. Journal of Communication, Culture and Technology, 9(1).

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