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Monday, January 9, 2012

Religion dot com

(Photo by Kristoferb)
Elizabeth Drescher - described on her website as “an educator,
scholar, writer and public speaker on Christian spirituality, with an emphasis on the spiritual practices of ordinary believers and seekers today and in the past” – wrote an article for the acclaimed
online magazine, Religion Dispatches, titled “Five Social Media
Trends that are Reshaping Religion.”

To begin with, Drescher reports that “more than half of the top
twenty” interactive Facebook pages are religious in nature.  Twitter does not seem to lag far behind.  Hashtagged memes such as #spirituality and #prayer are “consistently robust” – as are “event-related hashtags” such as #haroldcamping and #rapture.  Drescher therefore heralds social media as offering
“vibrant locales for religious formation, spiritual care, witness, and advocacy” - and advises today’s religious leaders to “click on over to where the people are if you really want to connect.”

Secondly, ministry leaders are beginning to utilize such location based services as Foursquare in order “to make visible the range of their ministry practice” - and in order “to alert community members that they’re available for conversation at a nearby coffee shop or brew pub.”  This allows for a lot more flexibility and accessibility than strictly office-based appointments would.

Apps are also being geared more and more towards religious themes.  Perhaps the most controversial of these to date has been the Confession app - but that is just one of many apps that have been developed for on-the-go spirituality.  However, Drescher warns that unless these religiously-themed apps “grasp the
digital trinity of social engagement, spiritual meaning, and incarnational potential,” they might likely wind up amongst the thousands of other type apps that are ignored each year.

Drescher then points out that the coterie of “religionistas” who “curate content that facilitates online and offline connection” is growing way faster than the counterpart group of webmeisters who instead specialize in resuscitating used sermons.  In other words, engaging religious online content is that which incites “the interests of those in one’s networks, invites conversation, and encourages sharing across networks.”

Finally, Drescher reports that more and more religious institutions are developing social media guidelines.  One particular concern is the protection of minors.  Institutions also need to remember that a great deal of religious-based interaction occurs via non-institutional sites.



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