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.