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.

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