Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blog 6- Conclusion

After carefully reviewing the data collected over the duration of the case study I came up with the following research question to better understand the relationship between Christianity and Facebook:

When using Facebook, what strategies or trends work best when trying to frame the Christian faith on a social media platform and promote its core beliefs and values?

During my research over the course of this case study process, I noticed some common themes and trends. The primary theme that was promoted on the three Facebook pages I studied was that life is hard and we are going to struggle but as long as we stay strong and trust in God we will make it through whatever tribulations we are facing. Along with that message was the idea that these trials and tribulations will make you stronger in your faith. The last message or theme promoted was the importance of prayer because it allows you to develop a personal relationship with God. Since these messages seem to be the core beliefs and values presented online, determining who was the most effective in conveying this message would present me with the answer to my research question.

The pages ran by Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes were the most effective in promoting these core values because of the strategies they used on their pages. Rather than use memes or make comments that ask for likes which is the strategy that the Jesus Daily page employed, Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes posted motivational messages, mini- sermons, and scriptures. Not only were these types of posts the most effective in communicating their Christian beliefs, they also generated the most activity among its followers. Generating activity is important because it allows Christian believers to present and discuss their beliefs on an online forum, which is an example of lived religion online. The question then becomes do their practices of acting out lived religion online differ from their practices offline? This question however, is something I will discuss in further detail in my case study paper.

*The only thing that baffles me from the data I collected from my observations, is the fact that Jesus Daily had a larger following despite posting material that seemed to lack depth. But no matter, that is a topic for another time. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

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

This week I took a look at a couple more examples of posts that the three Facebook pages I am studying have made. With this new information I will compare and contrast my post from last week with the new examples.

From Jesus Daily:
“Our Father, which art in heaven,
Holy be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Describe God in 1 word! Click Share to encourage Friends who may have worries, fears and problems today.”

 Jesus Daily's photo.
“Like if you believe Jesus is bigger than your problems!!!”

From T.D. Jakes Ministries:
“Focus on your accomplishments, not your failures. Count your blessings. Celebrate the life you’ve been given.”
“If you are going to enjoy your relationship with God, you must start spending time with Him. Make prayer a priority.”

From Joel Osteen Ministries:
“Pressure can make or break you. The only difference between a piece of black coal and a priceless diamond is the amount of pressure it has endured.”
“Nothing you face will be too much for you. You will overcome every obstacle, outlast every challenge, and come through every difficulty better off than you were before.”

The posts made by Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes were motivational messages that stressed the idea of never giving up in life because your breakthrough is coming. They also focused on being thankful for what you have and who watches over you, God. Like before, Joel’s posts generated more activity than T.D. Jakes’ posts because of a larger following as well as a more interactive experience between the pages creator and those who follow the page. Jesus Daily on the other hand had one post that was the Lord’s Prayer, and one post that had their trademark visual element. Jesus Daily seems to focus on the interactions and emotions they can trigger with their posts. They mostly achieve this with emotional pictures that have captions that encourage likes and comments. 

One of the primary messages I observed from the examples I chose is the message that life is hard and we are going to struggle but as long as we stay strong and trust in God we will make it through whatever tribulations we are facing. Along with that message is the idea that these trials and tribulations will make you stronger in your faith as well as a more polished human being, or as Joel Osteen put it, “a priceless diamond.” Another message that these examples communicated was the importance of prayer. Prayer allows for you to have a personal relationship with God, which should be every Christian’s desire. Prayer is also important because it allows us to intercede for others who need God’s help. 

The patterns I noticed from this week’s examples are the motivational messages that both Joel Osteen and T.D.Jakes used. Jesus Daily on the other hand stuck to its usual trend of posting pictures with captions, however they did sneak in the Lord’s Prayer which is a bit atypical of their usual posts. All three pages generated activity from their followers. The followers used these pages to show how they construct or perform religion on social media. They choose to use it as a forum for questions, prayer, and scripture. It has become a way to interact with people of like faith around the world. 

These trends and messages fell in line with those that were highlighted in last week’s post. This just goes to show that these pages have established a game plan or script to use when attempting to construct and perform religion on the social media platform of Facebook.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

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

This post will look at the common trends, strategies, and messages that the three Facebook pages, I have chosen to use, employ to talk about religion online. I will look back at the six examples discussed in my earlier posts to find these commonalities.

“Joel Osteen Ministries” and “T.D. Jakes Ministries” were similar in that they both chose to primarily use motivational messages and mini sermons to talk about Christianity. These types of posts generally caused a lot of activity as the followers replied to them asking for prayer or even just acknowledging the truthfulness of what was said. “Jesus Daily” on the other hand chose to employ more visual elements when it came to promoting Christianity. They posted emotionally charged pictures with captions that caused the followers to think about God and all the sacrifices he has made for this world. I also noticed a difference in the way these pages were run as “Joel Osteen Ministries” tended to respond to their followers on a regular basis while the other two pages limited their activity to their original posts.

The common message that is being promoted over all three pages is that no matter what situation you are in God can help you get through it. All He wants is that you come to him and ask. An excerpt from a popular scripture comes to mind that hits the nail on the head, “Ask and it shall be given…” The followers of these pages also tend to share similar stories of the struggle they face in everyday life and how God helps them get through it.

The pages are not promoting conflicting messages because they are all dedicated to promoting God and how he can change your life. They all are based on Christianity and because of this tend to attract followers of like faith that use these pages to grow in their faith through discussions and prayer requests.

The research question that I have formulated out of my observations is: When using Facebook, what strategies or trends work best when trying to frame the Christian faith on a social media platform and promote its core beliefs and values?

Lived religion online focuses on the idea that in order to be closer to God you have to develop a personal relationship with him. My research has uncovered that those who have this type of relationship with God tend to be more vocal about their opinions and beliefs, and are more apt to influence other believers. Another key trait would be that those active on these sites aren’t afraid to ask for help and prayer, nor are they afraid to give it. Lived religion is about taking action and with these findings I can focus my research in a way that allows me to really see who is using Facebook to construct and perform their religion, which in this case is Christianity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Week 5: Facebook from the Users Point of View

To further my case study I have chosen to look at three examples of the types of posts that users post on the walls of the three Facebook pages that I have decided to base my research on.  They are as follows:

From Jesus Daily:
“John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
”Please pray for my brother...***** **** .....He is in dire need of prayer's he is about to have a third operation over the next 24 hours as doctors try desperately to save his life”

From Joel Osteen Ministries:
“Man of God help me pray for my business, Donsamuel from Nigeria”
“Please add your faith, awaiting a breakthrough for new house for 7 yrs. God bless.”

From T.D. Jakes Ministries:
“Yes I will I believe in my awesome God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to all of you. Hallelujah”
“Thank You LORD for teaching me to suffer ...well. Thank You for showing me how to truly flourish in every area of my life here in the flesh.”
“Lord please bless me with a discerning spirit so I can be more aware of the things that you are asking me to do in Jesus name I pray amen....”

The main purpose of social media is to be able to connect with others around the world and share your opinions and thoughts. What Facebook has allowed is the transmission of these messages in hyper-speed. Hyper-speed means that what you post can be seen the minute you post it, rather than having to wait for it like you would traditional mail. This technology has allowed Facebook users to have conversations and debates with other users as if they were standing face-to-face. When it comes to how religion is expressed or portrayed, this type of technology has allowed people to post specific comments or prayers directed at certain people, rather than just general comments that can be applied to many. It also allows for real time conversations and debates that can lead to further spiritual enlightenment. Individuals have also used this technology to make prayer requests, post words of encouragement, and quote scripture in the hope that someone out there will either respond or be touched by what they said. These expressions of their religious beliefs are personalized because Facebook and the technologies it employs, allows them to be.

These individuals used social media to express their concerns, share thoughts and scriptures, and ask for prayers for loved ones. These posts weren’t really unique, because these types of posts are commonplace on the Facebook sites I have chosen to study. They have become the norm for those trying to express their religious views through social media. The visual elements of these sites serve as a reminder of who God is and the beauty he has created. These images draw “ fans” to their pages through the use of visual, logical, and emotional appeals. The central goal of the posts I have studied seems to be the promotion of God’s word through scripture or testimony, as well as the request for intercession through prayer. All in all, a central theme I observed from these posts is the idea that God is a god that will help you through your struggle if you trust him enough to lay your burdens down before him.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Week 4: Mapping User Generated Religion

I have chosen to study the interplay between Christian pages and their followers on Facebook. I have decided to look at three pages, "Jesus Daily", "Joel Osteen Ministries", and "T.D. Jakes Ministries." On these pages I will observe the type of posts most common, the amount of activity these posts generate, and also the conversations that ensue between the followers.

As I was looking at the pages I selected I started to notice patterns in the way they chose to spread their Christian messages. "Jesus Daily" chose to use primarily pictures while, "Joel Osteen Ministries" and "T.D. Jakes Ministries" primarily used motivational messages and mini sermons. The pictures on "Jesus Daily" had captions such as "like if you agree", "1 Like= Jesus Wins", and "Type 'Lord' if Jesus is Lord." These pictures tended to generate the activity they asked for. If it asked for likes, then it got likes and if it asked for comments, it got comments. "Joel Osteen Ministries" and “T.D. Jakes Ministries" both received large amounts of comments and likes for their posts. However, there was a difference in volume as “Joel Osteen Ministries” tended to generate more than three times as much activity as did “T.D. Jakes Ministries,” on the same types of posts. This led me to wonder why, so I delved a little deeper and found two reasons why this occurred. First, Joel Osteen’s page has way more followers meaning that it is seen by more people. The second reason is Joel Osteen replied to some of the comments that were posted on his page while T.D. Jakes didn’t. This interaction makes the page seem more personable which in turn increases the amount of activity on the page. Of the conversations I observed, their tended to be a lot of instances of “Amen” and people thanking the religious leaders for their words of wisdom.

Facebook is unique in that it allows you to interact with people from around the world as if they were standing in the room next to you. Because of Facebook’s unique abilities people can share their different opinions and experiences in regards to Christianity. This can make for a more united Christian front. However, these interactions have their problems. The limits to this are not because of Facebook but rather the people who use it. In the present “Catfish” age, people are not always as they seem. Christians trying to connect with other people may be susceptible to false prophecy and fake religious leaders.

The primary message of the pages I chose was that everything happens for a reason and no matter what’s going on in your life you only need to turn to God for help.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Case Study Proposal

Facebook since its inception has risen to be the most visited social media site in the world. When there is that much traffic on a website it tends to be blossoming with opportunities to spread your beliefs or advance your religion. Christian believers have taken advantage of this as they have created some of the most popular pages on Facebook that focus on spreading the gospel. With these trends in mind, I decided to use Facebook as my social media platform. As I have long been a follower of Christianity, I only thought it natural to choose it as the religious context that I will conduct my case study in.

Since there are thousands of religious pages on Facebook, I have decided to look at three of the top five pages when it comes to Christianity. They include "Jesus Daily",  "Joel Osteen Ministries", and "T.D. Jakes Ministries." The aforementioned pages have a range of likes from over 1.8 million to close to 23 million. This is a staggering amount and most pages don't see this type of popularity. They use different techniques to spread their message including motivational pictures or quips, scriptures, and spoken prayers. These are all interesting categories and my research will include looking at the way the followers or "likes" respond to the posts that these pages publish. Which ones get the most likes? Which ones get the most comments? Which one generates the most activity? These are all questions that I will be looking at when studying the relationship between Christianity and Facebook.

I also plan to look at the interaction between the people who post the material and the followers that see these posts. The conversations that ensue are also going to be a focus of my study, as they can lead to enlightening examples of how Christianity has been able to penetrate the Facebook sphere and advance its message.